High Cholesterol in Seniors
Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance present in the blood that can contribute to a number of extremely serious health conditions, including stroke and heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 71 million Americans are currently suffering from high cholesterol, but only 1/3 of this group has their high cholesterol under control.
Part of the reason why so many people with high cholesterol do not have their condition under control is that high cholesterol is not symptomatic. In fact, the only way for individuals with high cholesterol to even know that they have this condition is through a blood test. Because of this, regular screenings are key to identifying high cholesterol and keeping it under control.
Unfortunately, high cholesterol is an especially common problem among seniors, as cholesterol levels can increase as a person ages. While most people can do with a cholesterol test once every 5 years, women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 45 may need to be screened more regularly.
Ways to Lower Cholesterol
In addition to prescription medications that can help individuals keep their cholesterol at safe levels, there are a number of lifestyle changes that individuals can make to help manage their cholesterol:
- Quitting Smoking – Smoking can significantly increase an individual’s cholesterol, so quitting smoking can make a huge difference in your life if you’re trying to bring your cholesterol down to normal levels. Additionally, smoking is an independent risk factor for a number of health problems, including high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Exercising –Working out regularly can help you to lower your cholesterol levels naturally. It’s recommended that people, seniors included, get two and a half hours of physical activity every week.
- Eat Well – Certain foods and types of foods can contribute to high cholesterol, including trans fats, and saturated fats. However, other foods, like fiber and polyunsaturated fats, can help to lower your cholesterol. As such, make sure you’re paying attention to what you’re eating and make decisions that will benefit your health.
- Keeping a Healthy Weight – Being overweight or obese can contribute to your cholesterol levels, so maintaining a healthy weight through healthy eating and exercise can help to lower your cholesterol.
Benefits of Lowering Your Cholesterol
There are a number of distinct benefits that accompany having your cholesterol in a safe range. In addition to lowering your chances of suffering a stroke, heart attack, or being diagnosed with other cardiac diseases, having appropriate levels of good cholesterol can also reduce a senior’s chances of experiencing dementia.
Additionally, making life changes that can lower your cholesterol, like exercising, eating well, and quitting smoking, will also have significant benefits in other areas of your life, as well. As such, making the decision to get healthy and lower your cholesterol can help improve your overall health, help you sleep better, and can have significant improvements on your overall mood.
There are a number of different health conditions that become more likely as we age, and the best way to protect your health as you move into your later years is to stay informed. Get regular health screenings and make sure that you stay proactive about your health and managing any conditions that you might have.
- Kimberly Langdon M.D. is a retired, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine earning Honors in many rotations. She then completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, earning first-place for her senior research project and placed in the 98th percentile on the national exam for OB/GYN residents in the U.S..
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