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Understanding Cholesterol and Its Effects on Senior Lives

Cholesterol levels can be a source of stress for seniors. Here’s what seniors and their loved ones need to know.

Cholesterol Statistics

About 37 percent of U.S. adults have a higher than recommended LDL cholesterol level. This can increase the risk of heart disease or stroke. Seniors are at higher risk of these health problems. So, it’s vital that caregivers and seniors understand the effects of cholesterol.

(CDC)

What Cholesterol Is All About

Although many people think of cholesterol as something to avoid entirely, cholesterol is a natural substance the body makes on its own. Cholesterol helps cells make hormones, digest food, and more. Besides the cholesterol your body produces, you can also consume cholesterol in eggs, meat, and other foods.

 

There are three types of cholesterol doctors measure:

  • High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)
  • Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
  • Triglycerides

HDL is “good” cholesterol because its function is basically to clear out LDL cholesterol, which can build plaque up in the arteries. Triglycerides can also cause harmful build-up affecting the heart.

When doctors give patients “cholesterol level” findings, high HDL numbers are encouraging. Elevated LDL and/or triglyceride numbers are what is commonly called “high cholesterol” and increase the risk of heart disease. (Medline Plus)

 

How to Manage Cholesterol Levels

 

Seniors tend to be at an elevated risk of heart disease simply because of the aging process. When a senior also has high cholesterol, their heart disease risk increases. It is important for seniors to manage their cholesterol levels to keep arteries clear and functional.

Here’s how cholesterol can be managed:

Medication

There are a few medications that can help lower bad cholesterol levels and increase HDL. The most common medications for this are called statins.

Dietary Changes

Since cholesterol levels can be affected by what you eat, seniors with high LDL or triglycerides levels should:

  • Avoid unhealthy fats
  • Eat healthier fats
  • Get plenty of fiber
  • Reduce sugar intake
  • Reach a healthy weight

Exercise Regularly

The body can manage conditions like high cholesterol better if you are physically active. Exercise stimulates many important natural processes. Taking regular walks is a great start. (WebMD)

 

Home Care Tip

Seniors can often have high cholesterol without showing any symptoms. Encourage seniors to visit doctors regularly and receive recommended blood tests to check cholesterol levels, especially if they are at elevated risk due to obesity or a poor diet.

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