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Hendrick Health physician advises adults have cholesterol checked regularly

Hendrick Health physician advises adults have cholesterol checked regularly

Cholesterol plays a vital role in the body, but too much can increase the risk for heart disease and stroke. That risk can be reduced long-term by knowing cholesterol numbers through a simple blood test in early adulthood so steps can be taken to maintain a healthy level.

In general, people should have their cholesterol checked at age 20 and then every five years. At 45, the frequency is every one to two years, said Dr. Austin Lunney, internal medicine physician at Hendrick Clinic.

“However, your primary care doctor may decide to screen more often based off your medical history,” said Lunney. “Things like obesity, family history of early heart attacks or high cholesterol, smoking or diabetes may prompt earlier or increased frequency of checking cholesterol.”

Located in the blood stream, cholesterol helps build cell membranes, vitamins and hormones. The liver creates cholesterol, which also comes from dietary sources, such as meat, eggs, cheese and milk.

A blood test monitors cholesterol in three levels: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and overall composite. LDL is considered “bad cholesterol,” while HDL is “good cholesterol.” The test also detects the level of triglycerides, a type of fat that affects cholesterol levels.

Lifestyle modifications usually are the first recommended remedy for abnormal cholesterol levels, Lunney said. Those changes include increasing exercise and following a low-carbohydrate diet.

“The sooner you start these changes the better the outcome because as you get older, it is harder to change your cholesterol with just lifestyle modifications alone,” said Lunney.

Prescribed medications also are options, such as a variety called statins.

“These are relatively well-tolerated medications and have been shown to reduce the chance of having a heart attack or stroke,” said Lunney.

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