A Crucial Checkup Cholesterol Education Month Is a Good Time to Get Tested

September is National Cholesterol Education Month, a good time to get your blood cholesterol checked and take steps to lower it if it is high. National Cholesterol Education Month is also a good time to learn about lipid profiles and about food and lifestyle choices that can help you reach personal cholesterol goals.
More than 102 million American adults have total cholesterol levels at or above 200 mg/dL, which is above healthy levels. More than 35 million of these people have levels of 240 mg/dL or higher, which puts them at high risk for heart disease.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and many foods. Your body needs cholesterol to function normally and makes all that you need. Too much cholesterol can build up in your arteries. After a while, these deposits narrow your arteries, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke.
High cholesterol usually doesn’t have any symptoms. As a result, many people do not know that their cholesterol levels are too high. However, doctors can do a simple blood test to check your cholesterol. High cholesterol can be controlled through lifestyle changes or, if it is not enough, through medications.
It’s important to check your cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends that adults age 20 and older have their cholesterol checked every fivr years.
Preventive guidelines for cholesterol screening among young adults differ, but experts agree on the need to screen young adults who have other risk factors for coronary heart disease: obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and family history. Fewer than half of young adults who have these risk factors don’t get cholesterol screening, even though up to a quarter of them have elevated cholesterol.
A simple blood test called a lipoprotein profile can measure your total cholesterol levels, including LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or ‘bad’ cholesterol), HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or ‘good’ cholesterol), and triglycerides.
Contrary to what many people think, high cholesterol can develop in early childhood and adolescence, and your risk increases as your weight increases. In the U.S., 20{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of youth aged 12 to 19 have at least one abnormal lipid level. It is important for children over age 2 to have their cholesterol checked if they are overweight/obese, or have a family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, certain chronic conditions (chronic kidney disease, chronic inflammatory diseases, congenital heart disease), or childhood cancer survivorship.
The NCEP has developed specific recommendations about cholesterol treatment for people at increased risk, such as those with a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease.
If you have high cholesterol, there are some things you can you do to lower it. Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat your high cholesterol. In addition, you can lower your cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes. These include qutting smoking; maintaining a healthy weight; eating more low-fat and high-fiber food (fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and whole grains); and, for adults, getting at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate exercise — or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity — per week. Young people aged 6 to 17 should get one hour or more of physical activity each day.