Are you at risk for heart disease? Visit nch.org/heartsmart and click on "HeartAware" to take an online risk assessment.
You would never pour grease down your kitchen sink. After all, grease hardens when cooled, leading to buildup of pipe-clogging gunk.
Chew on that next time you chow down on a double cheeseburger and fries. Then, picture cholesterol-clogged arteries instead of the kitchen drain.
One in six adults has high total cholesterol. Are you one of them? Here's a quick cholesterol Q & A:
A: Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like substance necessary to make hormones, bile acids and vitamin D. When experts talk about "high cholesterol," they generally mean LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, a waxy fat-like substance.
A: LDL cholesterol accumulates, forming hard plaque on artery walls. HDL, or "good" cholesterol, travels through the bloodstream, actually removing LDL cholesterol.
A: High LDL cholesterol increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, says Manjeet Sethi, MD, interventional cardiologist at Northwest Community Hospital (NCH).
A: High cholesterol is a "silent killer." Sometimes the first sign of high cholesterol is a heart attack.
When a heart attack patient is transported to NCH, a team of specialists mobilizes quickly to provide state-of-the-art treatment. A coronary angiogram is part of this process.
"When we conduct a coronary angiogram, the arteries of the heart should look like clean tubes—almost like roots leading to the trunk of a tree," Dr. Sethi says. In plaque-hardened arteries, blood flow is obstructed. "If a clot forms in that obstructed artery, it can block the artery completely. That causes a heart attack."
A: Dr. Sethi urges exercise, smoking cessation, and a diet low in saturated fat (found mostly in animal products).
It's also important to know your total cholesterol score. Call your doctor to schedule a fasting lipid profile, a simple blood test recommended every five years for adults 20 years and older.