The holiday season might bring much joy to your year, but it can also reap havoc on your heart health. In fact, research shows that bad cholesterol levels spike the most during this time of year, by nearly 20%.
The consumption of rich, calorie-laden foods and increased stress levels during this period can lead to a startling spike in cholesterol levels, raising the risk of heart attacks and strokes by up to 20%.
According to Dr. Norman Lepor, a cardiologist at Cedars Sinai in Beverly Hills, California, this time of year witnesses a consistent weight gain among individuals, largely due to elevated food intake and increased alcohol consumption.
Understanding Cholesterol’s Impact on Health
Cholesterol, a crucial component of our circulatory system, exists in two primary forms: LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, often termed as “bad” cholesterol, and HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, referred to as “good” cholesterol.
Dr. Lepor explains that high levels of LDL cholesterol can initiate the formation of arterial plaque, likening the process to rusting in arteries, consequently elevating the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Additionally, triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood used for energy, plays a part in heart health. The combination of high levels of triglycerides with low HDL and/or high LDL cholesterol levels can increase the risk of a heart attack.
“High triglycerides can lead to inflammation in the vessel walls, which makes it easier for plaque to build over time,” Amy Pierce, a nurse practitioner and clinical lipid specialist at Norton Heart & Vascular Institute, told Healthline.
Lifestyle Strategies for Managing Cholesterol
While genetic factors play a significant role in cholesterol levels, lifestyle choices significantly influence around 15 to 20% of cholesterol levels.
Engaging in regular exercise and adopting a diet low in saturated fats are pivotal in managing cholesterol.
Nurse practitioner Amy Pierce emphasizes that reducing saturated fats and incorporating regular exercise into one’s routine can effectively reduce LDL cholesterol by 10-20%.
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Additionally, certain dietary choices, such as consuming soluble fibers, foods infused with plant sterols, and nuts, can positively impact cholesterol levels.
The Role of Medication in Cholesterol Management
Dr. Lepor notes that a considerable percentage of individuals with elevated cholesterol levels remain untreated, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis-related complications. Statins, a commonly prescribed medication, are recognized for their efficacy in lowering LDL cholesterol and reducing cardiovascular risks.
In cases where statins are insufficient or intolerable, alternative treatments like Leqvio may be considered as supplementary therapies.
Prioritizing Heart Health During the Year’s End
The culmination of the year presents an opportune moment to reevaluate lifestyle choices, focusing on dietary habits and exercise routines.
Pierce emphasizes the importance of setting health goals and seeking guidance from healthcare providers to ensure a healthy and focused approach to achieving these objectives.
Dr. Lepor advocates for proactive measures, encouraging individuals to request coronary calcium scans, enabling early detection and preventive treatment for potential plaque buildup.
Final Thoughts on Heart Health
Empowering oneself with knowledge about cholesterol levels and maintaining an open dialogue with healthcare providers remains pivotal in maintaining heart health.
Dr. Lepor underscores the importance of patient advocacy and physician engagement in promoting a healthy lifestyle and identifying potential health risks.
In conclusion, the holiday season, while a time of celebration, demands mindfulness towards heart health.
By adopting prudent lifestyle choices and seeking medical guidance, individuals can mitigate the risks associated with heightened cholesterol levels, ensuring a healthier and happier start to the upcoming year.