Everyone understands the importance of maintaining healthy cholesterol levels to protect their heart, but many are not aware of how high cholesterol levels threaten the health of their entire vascular system. Vascular diseases cause strokes, death from ruptured aortic aneurysm, pain when walking, or leg amputation in the worst cases.
High levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol are one of the major risk factors for vascular disease that can result in paralysis, blindness, or speech abnormality due to stroke and even death by a ruptured aortic aneurysm.
The vascular system is made up of all the body’s arteries and veins. Healthy vessels are smooth and unobstructed, allowing oxygen-rich blood to flow freely and deliver glucose and nutrients to the vital organs, brain, legs, and arms. Typically with age, the vessels build up plaque, a sticky substance made up mostly of fat and cholesterol. The plaque narrows the passageway within the vessels and causes them to become stiff. Vascular disease results when the vessels become too narrow or obstructed, and limit the flow of blood.
Here are a few suggestions to take control of your cholesterol levels:
· Keep your refrigerator filled with only good food like fresh fruits, vegetables, and low-fat or fat-free daily foods.
· Pay attention to food labels when you shop. Purchase foods that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
· Control the portion size of your meals.
· Exercise. Even moderate physical activity, like walking 30 minutes daily will help maintain your cholesterol levels.
· Know what your cholesterol numbers are.
· Follow your doctor’s treatment if you have trouble lowering your cholesterol levels.
Other risk factors for vascular disease include: high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and diabetes. People who are 55 or older, particularly those who have a family history of vascular disease, should discuss their risk factors with their primary care physician. The three most prevalent vascular diseases are: