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US cholesterol levels see improvement

Category: Heart Health and Cholesterol

The levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, often known as "good cholesterol," have risen in the U.S., though the rates of low-density lipoprotein, or "bad cholesterol," have stayed about the same. The new report, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that screening rates for people having blood tests to determine their cholesterol levels have stalled, so those who may be at risk for high cholesterol should consider a lab test to help determine their levels.

The CDC compared levels of U.S. residents over the age of 20 in the years 2011 and 2012 to the rates of 2009 and 2010, finding that the rates of HDL cholesterol had improved significantly. The rate of adults in the U.S. with low levels of HDL cholesterol had dropped 20 percent between the time periods, with just 17 percent of adults surveyed having low levels. The study found that women had higher levels of LDL cholesterol and had been screened less frequently, though heart disease remains the most likely killer of both men and women in the country.

High levels of HDL cholesterol have been found to reduce the risk that is created by raised levels of LDL cholesterol, which is associated with heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular issues. Cholesterol tests can show the levels of both types, allowing for healthier lifestyle practices to begin, which can significantly reduce the risks of cardiovascular episodes.

Improving heart health
A healthy lifestyle is essential to lowering rates of LDL cholesterol and avoiding heart attack and stroke. Many people also take certain prescription medications to help manage their cholesterol, though these often are unsuccessful without changes in diet and exercise.

The Cleveland Clinic noted that being active is one of the simplest ways to reduce the risk of heart disease and other complications associated with high cholesterol. It is not necessary to exercise vigorously to help heart health, as just a brisk walk each day can significantly reduce the risk. Losing weight is another way to reduce the workload for the heart and restriction on veins that can cause heart attacks or stroke, so adding exercise can help with that as well.

Changing diet can help reduce LDL cholesterol as well as help lose weight. Eating less processed foods, red meat and sodium can be very helpful in terms of both cholesterol control and losing weight, both of which are essential to heart health.

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