High cholesterol, silent killer

  • Published
  • By Capt. Aaron Ziegler
  • 912th Air Refueling Squadron
Heart disease kills more than 5,000 Americans every year; it's the leading cause of death in the United States. One of the major risk factors for heart disease is high cholesterol, or increased levels of circulating fat in our blood. 

These increased levels of fat in our blood leads to a hardening of the arteries. This can cause blockages, which in turn, leads to heart attacks and strokes. 

While heart disease rates are declining in the United States among most races, unfortunately the rates are not falling as fast among blacks. Studies in the 1980ss and early 90s attributed this to lower rates of awareness, screening and treatment. Thankfully, more recent studies have demonstrated that these differences appear to no longer exist, although there are still many Americans in general that have untreated high cholesterol. 

There are two main types of cholesterol, good, or HDL, and bad, or LDL. The good cholesterol actually protects us from heart disease. It can be increased by exercise, small amounts of good fats (olive oil, avocado oil and canola oil), quitting smoking, niacin and cutting out trans fats. LDL can be lowered by avoiding animal fats such as butter, lard, red meats and fried foods. 

Additionally, you can also lower LDL by eating more soluble fiber, eating Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish oil and flax seed), through exercise and with weight loss. For some individuals, no matter how good their diet is, their cholesterol will remain elevated. These individuals may also need a cholesterollowering agent. 

The most important thing to remember is that high cholesterol has no symptoms, so regular preventative screening is the key to early detection and prevention. 

For more information, please contact your health care provider.