LIVINGSTON — High cholesterol can affect anyone. It’s a serious condition that increases a person’s risk for heart disease, the number one killer of Americans, both women and men. The higher a person’s cholesterol level, the greater the risk.
Knowing your cholesterol level is important. “People should have their cholesterol level checked starting at age 20, since the process of arterial blockages is a gradual one that happens over time,” explains Claudia Irmiere, RN, APN-C, an advanced practice nurse with Cardiac Services at The Heart Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. She says studies show that heart attacks that occur in people age 50 and above may be the result of plaque that began to form on the inside of their coronary arteries when these people were teenagers.
“Our blood cholesterol level is affected by many factors and choices that we make in our lives that contribute to how high or low our cholesterol will be,” explains Irmiere. “Fortunately, if you have high cholesterol, there are lifestyle changes you can make to lower it and protect your health.”
Irmiere stresses that losing weight, eating better and exercising can help lower your cholesterol. To do so, she offers the following suggestions:
- Reduce the number of calories you consume to keep your body weight within a normal range for your age and height.
- Limit your saturated fat intake by using lean meats, oils and soft margarines.
- Include more fruits and vegetables in your diet, along with foods rich in fiber, whole grains and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Whether you’re overweight or not, try and get 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity.
- If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation (no more than one drink a day for women and two for men).
- Don’t smoke and if you do, quit.
- Speak with your doctor about additional lifestyle changes you can make.
“It is never too early or too late to start taking care of your heart,” Irmiere explains. Becoming aware of your risk factors and making healthy lifestyle changes can make a huge impact on your heart health in the future,” she adds.
For further information regarding cholesterol or heart disease, or to schedule an appointment with a cardiologist on staff at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, call the Barnabas Health Link at 1-888-724-7123.