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For Release: September 26, 2013 - Pamela Williams, Office of Communications - 405/271-5601

Help Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke by Controlling Your Cholesterol
September is National Cholesterol Education Month

There are no signs or symptoms of high blood cholesterol and more than 40 percent of Oklahoma adults who have been screened have been told by a health care professional that their cholesterol was high. According to public health officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), people with high cholesterol have a greater chance of getting heart disease or having a stroke. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Oklahoma and stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in Oklahoma.

The 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System revealed that 25.3 percent of Oklahoma adults had never had their blood cholesterol checked and only 69.9 percent of adults have had their cholesterol checked in the past 5 years.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body needs. When too much builds up in your blood, it can build up on the walls of your arteries and form blockages. This can lead to heart disease and stroke. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as “good cholesterol” and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is called “bad” cholesterol.

The OSDH notes that screening for cholesterol is important because high cholesterol does not have symptoms. The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that adults 20 years or older have their cholesterol checked every 5 years.

You may need to have your cholesterol checked more often if:

  • Your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or higher.
  • You are a man older than age 45 or a woman older than age 50.
  • Your HDL cholesterol is lower than 40 mg/dL.
  • You have other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

The OSDH recommends preventing or treating high cholesterol by:

  • Eating a healthy diet. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats. Other types of fats, such as polyunsaturated fats, can lower blood cholesterol levels. Eating fiber can also help lower cholesterol. 
  • Exercising regularly. The Surgeon General recommends that adults engage in moderate-intensity exercise for 2 ½ hours every week.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can raise your cholesterol levels. Losing weight can help lower your cholesterol.
  • Not smoking. If you smoke, quit as soon as possible.
  • Taking any prescribed medications to control your cholesterol.

OSDH is participating in the Million Hearts® initiative, a national effort to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the United States by 2017, by bringing together communities, health systems, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, and private sector partners to address high cholesterol. Million Hearts focuses on (1) Improving the “ABCS” of cardiovascular health—Aspirin when appropriate, Blood pressure control, Cholesterol management, and Smoking cessation; and (2) Empowering Americans to make healthy choices such as preventing or quitting tobacco use and reducing salt (sodium) and trans fat consumption.

For more information about cholesterol and how you can prevent high cholesterol or keep it controlled, see “Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol with TLC” from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at:  http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/chol/chol_tlc.pdf. Contact your health care provider, your local county health department, or the OSDH Chronic Health Service at (405) 271-4072 for more information.

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