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Cholesterol and the Elderly

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance found in all the cells in our bodies. Our brains are largely made up of cholesterol… who knew! It is an essential fat we need to make Vitamin D, hormones and other substances that help us digest food. Our bodies make all the cholesterol it needs without any supplements, but because it is found in many foods we readily ingest, high cholesterol is a real concern for many people.

Too much cholesterol can cause plaque to build up in the blood. This happens when there is an overabundance of the waxy cholesterol that combines with other substances in our blood. That plaque can lead to a narrowing or blocking of the arteries (coronary artery disease), as well as a stroke or heart attack.

Good vs. Bad Cholesterol

It can be a bit confusing remembering the good from the bad type of cholesterol. HDL, which stands for "high-density lipoprotein" is actually the GOOD kind of cholesterol. It works to remove excess cholesterol from your body by carrying it back to your liver to be metabolized (broken down) and removed.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is what the medical community has coined "bad" cholesterol. It is an important substances for our bodies' overall ability to function property, we just don't need very much of it. Thus, high cholesterol is actually when you have too much of the low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

What Causes High Cholesterol?

Saturated Fats:

Our bodies make all the cholesterol we need, but unfortunately cholesterol is found in animal-sourced foods that are a regular part of our diet. Egg yolks, meat, cheese and other dairy products are the main culprits. These saturated fats are also found in baked goods (including chocolate, boo!), fried foods and processed foods. These fats can raise the level of LDL.

Physical Inactivity:

If you live a sedentary lifestyle, you can actually lower your good cholesterol proteins (HDL). The heart needs to be exercised to stay strong. If you are not exercising, your heart can lose endurance, flexibility and strength. Aerobic activity can be challenging for an elderly person to do – 20 minutes a day, three times a week is what is recommended.


It should come as no surprise that smoking contributes to any and all health maladies. There are no positive health benefits to smoking!

High Cholesterol and the Elderly

The elderly population often has multiple risk factors or chronic conditions that are interwoven and related. Those at risk for heart disease may already be keeping a close eye on their cholesterol levels, or even taking medication to keep it in balance. A healthy diet and regular exercise routine can yield positive benefits in weight loss, mobility, better blood pressure and healthier glucose levels. All of these changes can lower a senior's risk for high cholesterol, coronary disease and many other maladies.

Heritage Health is a skilled nursing care provider in Illinois that offers long- and short-term nursing care, therapy and pharmacy services to the senior population. Learn more at our website by clicking here.

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Friday, October 18, 2019

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