Preventing Cardiovascular Disease
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in the blood. High cholesterol does not cause damage for days or weeks, but rather over years. Gradually, high blood cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis, which is the main cause of cardiovascular disease.
Several studies have looked at the effects of cholesterol treatment to prevent cardiovascular disease. These research studies have shown that the progress of cardiovascular disease may be stopped by reducing cholesterol. In some cases, it may even be reversed.
This results in fewer people developing and dying from cardiovascular disease. It also lowers the number of people with the condition who have another heart attack or stroke, or who die from heart disease or stroke.
You should have your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels checked (through a lipid panel test) at least once every 5 years. If your levels are high, talk to your doctor about what you can do to lower them. You may be able to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels by eating better (see Low Cholesterol Diet) and exercising more (see Exercise and Cholesterol). Your doctor may prescribe medication as well.
(Click Lowering Cholesterol for more information.)
About 50 million American adults have high blood pressure (also known as hypertension). The top number of a blood pressure reading, called the systolic pressure, represents the force of blood in the arteries as the heart beats. The bottom number, called the diastolic pressure, is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart relaxes between beats.
High blood pressure makes the heart work extra hard and hardens artery walls, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
A blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered high. Any readings that are above 120/80 mmHg but below high blood pressure levels are considered to be at the "prehypertension" level.
People with high blood pressure often have no symptoms, so have your blood pressure checked every one to two years. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may suggest you make some lifestyle changes, such as eating less salt (see DASH Diet) and exercising more. Your doctor may also prescribe medicine to help lower blood pressure.
(Click Lowering Blood Pressure for more information.)