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High Cholesterol in Men

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Posted by on Thursday, September 23, 2010, 2:53
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High Cholesterol in Men

Why should I care about high cholesterol in men?

High cholesterol, also called hypercholesteremia, puts men at increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease. For many men, the risk of high cholesterol starts in their 20s and increases with age.

Cholesterol in Men
Cholesterol in Men

High cholesterol tends to run in families, so obviously genes play a role. But a variety of lifestyle factors also affect cholesterol levels ― including diet, activity level, and body weight. The only way to know how high your cholesterol levels are is to get a simple blood test. Everyone over 20 should get a cholesterol test at least once a year. If your numbers are high, your doctor may recommend the test more often.

More information on common Cholesterol drugs from RxList:

* Vytorin
* Lipitor
* Zetia

What is high cholesterol?

Cholesterol, a fat-like substance, is an essential building block of cells. But if levels in the blood of certain forms of cholesterol climb too high, the substance builds up on the walls of arteries like rust on the inside of a pipe. This build-up eventually reduces blood flow to the heart. If levels of blood and oxygen to the heart drop far enough, the result can be severe chest pain. In the worst case, a chunk of cholesterol-laden plaque can break off and completely block blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack. A blockage of blood vessels supplying the brain can cause a stroke. Cholesterol build-up can also disrupt the way the heart beats, increasing the risk that blood clots will form.

The artery-clogging form of cholesterol is called low-density lipoprotein, or LDL. Another form of cholesterol, called high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is actually beneficial. It helps remove LDL from the blood and then from the body. The ideal for good health is to keep LDL levels down and HDL levels up. Cholesterol tests often include a ratio of these two forms of cholesterol. Desirable levels of LDL are less than 100 mg/dL. The ideal for HDL is 60 mg/dL or higher.

Your risk of having high cholesterol increases if:

* Your diet is high in saturated fat. These fats, found in meat and full-fat dairy products, raise LDL cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol, found in eggs and organ meats, can also raise blood cholesterol levels.
* You eat foods containing trans fats. These artificially made fats, found in partially hydrogenated oils, raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol — exactly the wrong combination.
* You are overweight or obese. Excess weight increases LDL and lowers HDL.
* You don’t get much exercise. Studies show that a bout of exercise can boost HDL, the good cholesterol. Lack of exercise can lead to weight gain.

There are two cholesterol tests. The simplest measures total cholesterol levels in the blood. However, most doctors now use a lipoprotein analysis, which includes:

* total cholesterol level
* LDL cholesterol level
* HDL cholesterol level
* triglycerides (another fat in your blood that raises the risk of heart disease)
* ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol
How can I prevent high cholesterol?

For most men, the most important change to reduce high cholesterol is to cut back on the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet. That means cutting back on meat and poultry — either by eating smaller portions or eating them less often — and choosing skim or low-fat dairy products.

It is also important to increase the amount of soluble fiber you eat. This form of fiber, found in oatmeal, kidney beans, and apples, among other foods, takes LDL out of the body.

If you are overweight or obese, losing even just a few pounds can help lower your cholesterol level. There is no magical formula for weight loss, of course, but reducing portion sizes and cutting out things you can easily live without, such as sweetened beverages, is a good place to start. The average American now gets more than 20 percent of calories from beverages, many of them sweetened with sugar. Switching to diet sodas or water is painless and can make a big difference in total calories.

Regular exercise — as little as a brisk 30-minute walk most days — raises HDL and may also slightly lower LDL, a life-saving combination. Exercise is especially important if you have high triglyceride and LDL levels, and more than your share of abdominal fat.

What are the treatments for high cholesterol?

The first treatment for high cholesterol is adopting a healthier lifestyle. In many people who have cholesterol in the borderline high category, healthier habits can bring the numbers down to normal. If lifestyle changes are not enough, a variety of cholesterol-lowering medications are available. The leading choice ― statin drugs ― are very effective at lowering LDL. Recent studies have confirmed that these drugs reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.

High Cholesterol in Men

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