The average American has cholesterol levels that are ‘borderline high,’ and 1 in 6 has a high level. You may wonder whether something so common can really be a serious health risk. The truth is: Absolutely.
"If you look at populations of people, the higher the cholesterol, the higher the level of heart and blood vessel disease," says Laurence Sperling, MD, head of preventive cardiology at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. It's that simple.
You’ve probably heard that exercise can help keep your cholesterol at a healthy level. But what kind of exercise? For how long, and how often? And how much of an impact can you really expect exercise to have on cholesterol levels?
If you’re exercising the right way, the answer to that last question can be “a lot,” according to Patrick McBride, MD, MPH, director of the preventive cardiology program and the cholesterol clinic at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
Your body makes cholesterol, and you also get it when you eat eggs, meats, and dairy products. When you have more than your body needs, cholesterol can cause plaque to build up in your arteries. This thick, hard plaque can clog your arteries like a blocked pipe. Reduced blood flow can lead to a stroke or heart attack.
How High Cholesterol CausesHeart Attack: If there is a clog in a coronary artery, your heart gets too little blood and oxygen. Without enough oxygen, your heart becomes weak and damaged. If the plaque breaks open, a blood clot may form on top of the buildup, further blocking blood flow. Or, a blood clot can break off and flow to an artery in another part of the body. If a clot completely blocks an artery feeding your heart, you have a heart attack.