Surprising Facts About Cholesterol & Blood Pressure

February is heart health month, so there is no better time to brush up on your knowledge about cholesterol and blood pressure. Both are important to overall health, and the lifestyle choices you make every day influence them significantly. Here are a few lesser known facts about cholesterol that may surprise you:

  • You must have cholesterol to survive and one type is good for you. Cholesterol is a building block for all the body’s cells. High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is the type of cholesterol that helps clear your blood vessels of the unhealthy types of cholesterol (LDL and triglycerides) that can clog your arteries and lead to heart disease. You can raise your HDL levels through exercise and by eating a healthy diet with good fats.
  • High cholesterol is common in the U.S., affecting 1 out of every 3 adults. About 32% of U.S. adults have high LDL levels that put them at a higher risk for heart disease. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all adults over age 20 have their cholesterol checked every five years.
  • High cholesterol may be genetic. About 1 in 200 people have an inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). FH makes it hard for your body to get rid of extra cholesterol from meat, fish, and dairy. You may have FH if you have a family history of high cholesterol or heart attacks before age 50. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your risk if you fall in to those categories.

Blood pressure is also important to track for your overall health. High blood pressure is often known as the “silent killer” because it has no symptoms and raises the risk for the two leading causes of death in the United States, heart disease and stroke. The good news is that high blood pressure is both preventable and treatable (with diet, exercise, and medication, if needed). Here are a couple less known facts about blood pressure:

  • High blood pressure may be linked to dementia. Recent studies suggest that uncontrolled blood pressure from age 45-65 creates a higher risk for dementia later in life.
  • Even if you are in your 30s or 40s, high blood pressure may affect you. About 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women ages 35-44 has high blood pressure according to the CDC. No matter your age, you should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year.

Being aware of your cholesterol and blood pressure numbers and keeping them in a healthy range can help you lead a longer, healthier life. It’s never too early to talk to your doctor about these numbers and take steps to manage them.

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