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Understanding cholesterol risks

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

High cholesterol risks are not usually immediate. The damage accumulates over years and decades-high cholesterol in your 20s and 30s can take its toll in your 50s and 60s. Because the effects take time, many people don’t feel real urgency in treating it. They feel they can just deal with it later.

Everyone has cholesterol in their blood. But if your levels of LDL “bad cholesterol” are too high, the excess can accumulate on the walls of your arteries. This build-up of cholesterol and other substance-called plaque-can narrow the artery like a clogged drain. It can also lead to arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which turns the normally flexible tissue into more brittle tissue.

Plaques can form anywhere. If they form in the carotid artery in the neck, it’s carotid artery disease. When they form in the coronary arteries, which supply the heart muscle with blood, it’s called coronary artery disease. Like any organ, the heart needs a good supply of blood to work. If it doesn’t get that blood, you could get angina, which causes a squeezing pain in the chest and other symptoms.

There are other high cholesterol risks. If these plaques break open, they can form a clot. If a clot lodges in an artery and completely chokes off the blood supply, the cells don’t get the nutrients and oxygen they need and die. If a clot gets to the brain and blocks blood flow, it can cause a stroke. If a clot lodges in the coronary arteries, it can cause a heart attack.

It is important to get your cholesterol checked by your doctor. If your cholesterol is high follow your doctor recommendations and make the necessary lifestyle changes to lower your risks.

Contact Dianne Gatewood, extension agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, at 253-2610 (Brunswick County) or 798-7663 (New Hanover County) if you have questions or would like a bulletin entitled, “Become More Healthy in the Foods You EateeCholesterol”.