What is Cholesterol and How Does it Work?
Cholesterol has always been a topic of concern for aging adults. High cholesterol levels have traditionally been linked to heart disease. However, recent research has disputed how much of a factor it truly plays in the risk of dying from heart disease. Either way, it’s an important factor in overall cardiovascular health and should not be ignored.
There are two types of cholesterol that seniors need to monitor:
- Low-density Lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) – This is the “bad” cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is the amount of fat circulating in your body at any given time. This is the artery-clogging cholesterol that causes plaque build-up and is the major contributor to heart disease, stroke, and other health concerns.
- High-density Lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C) – This is the “good” cholesterol. HDL-C helps remove the bad cholesterol from the body. Having higher levels of this type of cholesterol in your body can actually help decrease the risk of heart disease and other medical conditions.
Cholesterol Levels by the Numbers
What we do know is that high cholesterol levels can be one of the many factors that contribute to heart disease, alongside other factors including high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, inactivity and more. Because of the many factors that contribute to heart disease, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to diagnosis and treatment in the elderly.
For most individuals the following guidelines are considered healthy when it comes to cholesterol levels in the body:
- Total blood cholesterol level less than 200 mg/dL
- LDL cholesterol level less than 100 mg/dL
- HDL cholesterol level greater than 40 mg/dL for men, 50 mg/dL for women
The important thing to remember is that cholesterol levels cannot be looked at in isolation. There are a variety of other factors that contribute to a person’s likelihood of developing heart disease, especially for the elderly.
Treating High Cholesterol
Luckily, in most cases, there are ways to manage high cholesterol levels naturally. And, even for seniors who are not at a higher risk of developing heart disease, following these guidelines can help with overall cardiovascular health.
Exercise is one of the single greatest resources we have to keep the mind and body sharp. Exercise can help reduce blood pressure, reduce weight, lower the risk of diabetes, and improve cognitive function. Any type of activity throughout the day is important for seniors.
Nutrition is another key component of cardiovascular health. Processed foods can contribute to unhealthy LDL-C levels, while leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables are an important part in lowering LDL-C levels in the body. Plus, proper nutrition plays a vital role in healthy aging regardless of cholesterol levels.
Medication can sometimes become necessary to help alongside a proper diet and exercise regimen. It is important to meet regularly with a doctor to discuss options and to keep a close eye on cholesterol levels in the body.
Find Help at McGregor PACE
If you need help with managing your health or the health of a loved one, there is help available. Our all-inclusive services are provided both in our facilities and in participant’s homes. Our goal is to keep participants remaining as healthy as possible.