One of the positive aspects of the recently passed Health Care Reform bill is the easy access to cholesterol screening and the increase in advocacy campaigns to educate the public about high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.
Health departments around the country have been raising awareness and understanding of these conditions by holding free testing clinics for citizens. More recently, public health officials in Little Elm, Texas, held a day of free cholesterol and blood pressure testing to make area residents aware of their risk for developing heart problems. Getting help early on is key in controlling a disease that killed more than 630 thousand Americans in 2006, according to the most recent available statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A complete cholesterol blood screen does not only look at the overall cholesterol count, but also at your High-density lipoprotein (HDL, or good cholesterol), Low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad cholesterol), Triglyceride levels, blood glucose, liver values, and additional screens to any changes in red and white blood counts which could signal the presence of cancer. Needless to say, knowing the numbers, especially early on, can encourage changes in diet and lifestyle which may prevent having to take statin drugs later on to control the high numbers, or even prevent the onset of diabetes.
And it is especially important to understand the numbers. A higher level of total cholesterol may not be so bad if you possess high HDL and low LDL. But low total cholesterol coupled with a low HDL but a high triglycerides count could point to metabolic syndrome, a syndrome that can leave you at an increased risk for atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke.
A recent UPI story included on HealthCentral suggests that cholesterol screening should begin as early as age 20. Make sure to take advantage to these opportunities for testing and education, especially the free ones, and if you find yourself to be at risk make sure that you start seeing a cardiologist at least twice a year. After every blood screen I sit down with my cardiologist and go over all the numbers, comparing with past tests and asking lots of questions - your cardiologist is not just there to run tests and answer questions, but also to help educate you on how to better manage your cholesterol level. Being educated about cholesterol screening is not only an important part of winning your battle against this disease, but will also help you become a better advocate for a healthy heart lifestyle.
Published On: May 11, 2010