As National Cholesterol Education Month unfolds this September, CHRISTUS Health is actively promoting awareness regarding the significance and risks associated with cholesterol and its profound impact on cardiac health and overall well-being.
Cholesterol, a fatty substance, has two primary sources: the liver, which naturally produces the necessary cholesterol for the body, and dietary intake. Consumption of fatty foods can elevate cholesterol levels, creating potential health hazards.
Dr. Hector Ceccoli, a cardiologist affiliated with CHRISTUS Heart and Vascular Institute, emphasized that cholesterol circulates in the bloodstream, and elevated levels of cholesterol can lead to arterial blockages, thereby contributing to heart disease and strokes.
"In patients with cardiovascular disease or those at high risk, we are adopting more aggressive approaches to cholesterol management because research has shown that lowering cholesterol significantly reduces the incidence of heart attacks and strokes," said Dr. Ceccoli.
Dr. Ceccoli further highlighted the two distinct forms of cholesterol: "good" HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) and "bad" LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein). HDL cholesterol transports LDL away from arteries and back to the liver, while excessive LDL cholesterol contributes to artery blockage.
Consuming foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and seafood can help increase "good" cholesterol, whereas items like full-fat dairy products, sugary drinks, and red meat contain "bad" cholesterol.
Dr. Ceccoli stated, "It truly is that straightforward: We aim to raise 'good' cholesterol levels and lower 'bad' ones. Surgical interventions for cholesterol are not an option, so we place a strong emphasis on lifestyle modifications like exercise, diet, weight loss, and if needed, medication."
Dr. Hong Vu, an internal medicine physician affiliated with CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic, encourages adult patients to undergo cholesterol checks every five years. He recommends more frequent screenings for patients with a family history of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.
"Most individuals with high cholesterol do not exhibit symptoms. You may not even be aware of the issue until a critical event occurs," Dr. Vu warned. "That's why early screening is crucial, so we can address the problem before it escalates."
In addition to lifestyle changes, medical professionals may prescribe medications such as statins to manage high cholesterol levels. Statins disrupt cholesterol production by inhibiting a specific enzyme within cholesterol-producing liver cells, reducing cholesterol release into the bloodstream.
Patients are urged to engage in a conversation with their healthcare providers regarding cholesterol levels and available treatment options. Raising awareness about cholesterol and its impact on heart health remains a critical focus during National Cholesterol Education Month.