September is National Cholesterol Education Month – Here is what you need to know!

Almost 1 in every 4 Americans has high cholesterol. As part of cholesterol awareness month, our goal is to make people aware of the risks associated with high cholesterol and encourage people to take a few steps to lower their levels.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that comes from two sources: your body and food. Your body, and especially your liver, makes all the cholesterol you need and circulates it through the blood. But cholesterol is also found in foods from animal sources, such as meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products.

There is a bad cholesterol, LDL, which can cause a lot of damage, and a good cholesterol, HDL, which helps prevent excess buildup of LDL. If your LDL is too high and your HDL is too low, the cholesterol can build up in the walls of your arteries. This slowly reduces the amount of space your blood has to flow and in doing so it can reduce the blood flow to certain organs and increase your blood pressure. If the artery becomes completely closed off it can result in a heart attack or stroke, both of which are incredibly dangerous and potentially fatal.

high-cholesterol-in-seniorsFast Food has too Much Cholesterol

To prevent these complications, the first step you must take is having your blood drawn and testing for cholesterol. Knowing your numbers is the first step in either preventing high cholesterol or lowering your cholesterol to a healthier range:

  • Your total cholesterol should be lower than 200
  • You should aim for an LDL number below 70
  • The idea HDL number is above 60
  • Your triglycerides should be below 150

There are a few steps you can take to achieve these numbers, and these steps revolve around living a healthier lifestyle with a balanced diet and a moderate amount of physical activity. To start, a healthy low-fat diet is crucial to lowering your cholesterol numbers. Saturated fats and trans fats tend to raise cholesterol. Other, healthier fats like polyunsaturated fats can lower cholesterol, as does a diet that includes plenty of fiber which can be found in fruits and vegetables. Some simple things you can do to lower include:

  • Dipping bread in olive oil instead of spreading it with butter.
  • Using hummus, mustard, or salsa instead of mayonnaise.
  • Replace whole milk or cream with low-fat dairy, soy, or almond milk.
  • Cook with lean meats or opt for a vegetarian dish.
  • Replace ice cream with frozen yogurt or fresh fruit for dessert.
fruit and vegetable variety


Incorporating some exercise into your daily routine will also help to lower cholesterol and will make you feel healthier overall. The surgeon general recommends 2 and a half hours per week, which breaks down to just 30 minutes, 5 days per week of briskly walking around the neighborhood, going for a bike ride, etc. By improving your diet and adding in some exercise you will start to lower your cholesterol and will likely work towards a healthier weight if you are overweight.

Finally, it is important that you quit smoking to help lower cholesterol and prevent some of the complications associated with smoking. If you follow these 4 steps, you will see improvements in your cholesterol numbers and will feel happier and healthier every day.

For more information, visit:

South County Internal Medicine