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Heart disease is the number one killer in our country and one of the major risk factors for heart disease is high blood cholesterol. The only way to know your cholesterol levels is to have your blood checked every five years, starting at age 20. That’s because high blood cholesterol usually doesn’t have any signs or symptoms that would alert you to the condition.

The consequence of not identifying and controlling your high blood cholesterol is significant. The waxy substance builds up in your arteries and can cause hardening of the arteries, which limits blood and oxygen flow to your heart. This can result in chest pain, or if an entire area of your heart is completely blocked, a heart attack.

To find out your blood cholesterol numbers, request a “lipoprotein profile” from your doctor. This test provides the most comprehensive information about your cholesterol levels.

Things you can do to lower your cholesterol:

1. Weight. If you are overweight, even a little weight loss can help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

2. Exercise. Regular physical activity can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

3. Food. Food is not as big a contributor to high blood cholesterol as we once thought. But it still plays a role. Saturated fats are the main culprit, with most of these fats coming from mixed dishes containing cheese and meat – such as burgers, pizza, sandwiches, pasta and rice dishes, and tacos.

If weight management and exercise alone don’t reduce your high blood cholesterol, your doctor may introduce cholesterol-lowering medications, such as statins. The main goal of cholesterol-lowering treatment is to lower your LDL level enough to reduce your risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack.

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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