Why Is Cholesterol Important For You To Monitor?

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Previously published on Answers.com.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and high blood cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. Lowering cholesterol levels to the range recommended by the American Heart Association is important. Ideally, cholesterol can be lowered via diet and exercise but sometimes more is needed. Measuring progress against the four key cholesterol measures over time will help you and your doctor determine the best medical course of action to minimize heart disease risk due to cholesterol levels.

Can Cholesterol Be Reduced – Enough To Measure – Via Diet and Exercise?

The short answer – for many people – is yes. Daily exercise along with a low-fat diet truly can reduce cholesterol dramatically. But for many, a radical diet shift (to a more ‘Mediterrean-style diet’ which is long on fruit, vegetables and healthy fats and short on processed food and red meat) along with finding a way to exercise for thirty minutes every day is daunting. But it can be done, and monitoring results every six months is one way to stay off those expensive prescription statins that carry multiple side effects.

I Have No Symptoms, Why Do I Need A Cholesterol Test?

The answer to that question is in the question itself. High cholesterol does not come with any symptoms. Many very fit, healthy-looking people are genetically predisposed to high cholesterol. And some not-so-healthy looking people will have normal cholesterol levels. The only way to know is with a cholesterol test.

My Last Cholesterol Test Was Fine – Why Do I Need Another Test?

Cholesterol levels vary over time. Hormones – which change as we age – have a major impact on cholesterol levels. Prescription medications can affect cholesterol as well: steroids, beta blockers, epinephrine, oral contraceptives and vitamin D are known to increase cholesterol. It’s important to monitor cholesterol to make sure it doesn’t creep – or leap – into a danger zone and/or to ensure current cholesterol-lowering methods are working.

How Often Should I Get A Cholesterol Test?

How often you should have your cholesterol checked depends on your age and heart disease risk factors. According to the American Heart Association, “All adults age 20 or older should have a fasting lipoprotein profile — which measures total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides — once every five years.”

However, the AHA goes on to say, “You may need to have your cholesterol checked more often than every five years if one or more of these situations applies to you: a) your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or more; b) you are a man over age 45 or a woman over age 50; c) your HDL (good) cholesterol is less than 40 mg/dL; or d) you have other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

Conclusion

It’s important to monitor your cholesterol at a rate that matches your age and heart disease risk profile. Cholesterol testing over time is the only way to tell whether you are already within the AHA cholesterol guidelines, or whether the medication or lifestyle changes (low-fat, low-cholesterol diet and daily exercise) are working to keep cholesterol at a safe level.

Did You Know?

There are home testing devices for cholesterol – particularly convenient for those monitoring cholesterol every six months. “The American Heart Association hasn’t taken a position on cholesterol home testing devices. Several devices are on the market. Some measure only total cholesterol. Others measure total cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol. One measures low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats).” If you frequently measure cholesterol, it might be worth looking into these home tests.

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