Monday, September 24, 2007
Know your numbers
OK. I'll admit it. I don't know my cholesterol numbers. That's right. A seasoned medical producer and I'm clueless when it comes to my levels. My eyes glaze over at the mention of HDL and LDL, the same way they do when my husband talks about the NBA. And the sad thing about it is, I'm not alone.
You would think by now that most Americans would know their numbers. But a new study by a group called the Society for Women's Health Research in Washington, D.C., found that older adult American women are better informed about cholesterol and more likely to monitor it than younger adult women. The study also found that more than half the women surveyed under the age of 45 did not know their numbers at all and didn't feel the need to know. Doctors say that's not good, because people of all ages, even children, can have high cholesterol, which can result in such problems as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), heart disease, stroke, and even early death.
Physicians say knowing your numbers is key. LDL is the "bad" cholesterol because when there is too much of it, it circulates in the blood, and can slowly build up in the walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. HDL is the "good" cholesterol because it helps remove "bad" cholesterol from arteries and prevent blockage. And then there are triglycerides, which are forms of fat. They're made in our bodies and also come from food. People with high triglycerides often have high total cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol and a low HDL cholesterol level. It's good to keep the HDL up and the LDL and triglycerides down. Ask your doctor what numbers are the healthiest for you.
So how can you keep all those numbers at the right levels? Some folks have to take medication. In fact recent studies have shown that Americans spend billions, not millions, but billions of dollars on cholesterol medicines each year. But doctors say many people could avoid medication if they just changed a few things in their lives.
According to the American Heart Association, the best ways to keep your cholesterol down are to eat foods low in cholesterol and saturated fats, maintain a healthy weight, exercise on a regular basis and see a doctor every year. And if you smoke, quit. If your levels don't even out after making those changes, then it may be time to think about going on medication.
September is National Cholesterol Awareness month. Hey, what's the old saying? "Do as I say, not as I do"? Forget it. I think it's time that I got my cholesterol checked. What about you? Let's do it together. It can make the difference in our health and in our futures, no matter what age we may be.
Are you fighting cholesterol problems? What do you do to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level? We'd like to know.
ABOUT THE BLOGGet a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
PREVIOUS POSTS• School lunches and America's diet
• The Empowered Patient
• Fed up? Find out more about 'America's Killer Diet...
• Living with chronic fatigue
• Health care on the political stage
• Fido forcing fitness
• Positive aging
• Flashing back to 9/11
• Are you an early adopter?
• Bringing back "Blow"