How to Lower Your Cholesterol and Why It Matters

September 18, 2019

how and why you should reduce your cholesterol

Cholesterol is probably one of the most common words you hear when it comes to heart disease, what and what not to eat, and general health and well-being. Unfortunately, the more one hears about something, the easier it can be to become desensitized to it. It’s important to stay aware of the critical effect that cholesterol can have on your overall health – and especially your heart.
 
While your body certainly needs cholesterol to make hormones and digest fatty foods, high levels of it become a case of “too much of a good thing.”
 
“Too much cholesterol can cause a build-up of deposits in your arteries, which can lead to heart disease and stroke – two leading causes of death in the US,” says Dr. Christopher Huffman, a cardiologist with Providence Health.

Cholesterol: A Problem All-Too Common 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 95 million adults (20 or older) in the U.S. have total cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dL, which is above healthy levels, and nearly 29 million American adults have total levels higher than 240 mg/dL. Here's some even more unfortunate news -- high cholesterol usually doesn’t make its presence known.
 
“High cholesterol can be particularly challenging from an awareness standpoint because it doesn’t typically come with symptoms. You could have high cholesterol and be completely unaware of it,” Dr. Huffman warns. “The good news is that your primary care provider can perform a simple blood test to determine your cholesterol levels and then work with you to bring those levels down, if necessary, and help reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke.”

“Too much cholesterol can cause a build-up of deposits in your arteries, which can lead to heart disease and stroke – two leading causes of death in the US,” says Dr. Christopher Huffman, a cardiologist with Providence Health.

Screening should begin early in life (more than one in five children ages 6 to 19 have unhealthy levels of cholesterol), and the general recommendation is to be screened every four to six years in adulthood. Frequency and the timing of your first screening can vary depending on age, risk factors and family medical history, so it’s important to speak with your primary care provider about the proper timing and frequency of screening for you and your family.

Good news! High Cholesterol is Treatable

While some patients may be prescribed medication to combat their cholesterol levels, others can make simple lifestyle changes to help lower their cholesterol and reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke.

Lifestyle choices that help maintain healthy Cholesterol levels include:

  • Eating a healthy diet avoiding foods high in saturated and trans fats, and focusing on lean fish, chicken, vegetables and grains that provide high fiber
  • Staying Physically Active, following the US Surgeon General’s recommendation of two and a half hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week (children and youth should have one hour of activity each day)
  • Maintaining a healthy weight -- determine the weight that's right for you by measuring your body mass index and talking to your doctor about weight management.
  • Steering clear of tobacco 
  • Limiting your alcohol intake

“If you don’t know your cholesterol levels or are concerned that they could be too high, it’s important to have them tested and then discuss your numbers with your primary care provider,” says Dr. Huffman. “Knowing your cholesterol levels is the first step to developing a plan to lower them and reducing your risk for serious health issues down the road.”
 
If you need your cholesterol tested or would like to learn more about how you can lower your cholesterol, Providence Health can help. Call 800-424-DOCS to get connected with the care you need.

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Dr. Christopher Huffman, Cardiologist in Columbia SC
Christopher J. Huffman,
MD, FACC

Dr. Christopher Huffman, cardiologist with Providence Heart, received his medical degree from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine here in Columbia, SC, after receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Philosophy from Yale University. After completing a residency and internship in internal medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, NY, he completed a fellowship in cardiovascular disease at Georgetown University/Medstar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC. He then returned to New York City to complete a fellowship in interventional cardiology at New York University Langone Medical Center. Dr. Huffman has co-authored over a dozen research publications and presentations and is certified in interventional cardiology, cardiovascular disease, vascular interpretation, nuclear cardiology, echocardiography, and internal medicine.