High cholesterol is a common health concern among older adults. As you age, your cholesterol often rises. This puts seniors at risk for serious health complications like, heart disease, angina, and peripheral artery disease.
But why is high cholesterol an issue for older adults, and what can seniors do to protect themselves?
What is Cholesterol?
Before you can understand why cholesterol rises with age, it’s helpful to learn a little about cholesterol and its role in the body.
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found throughout your bloodstream. It is crucial for many physiological processes that are necessary for survival, like forming cell membranes, making hormones, creating vitamin D, and producing bile to help digestion.
There are two main types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
LDL is the type of cholesterol you don’t want. It can build up in your arteries, causing them to narrow and possibly even become blocked. This is a serious problem because it reduces blood flow, which can result in heart attack, stroke, or a blood clot. When medical professionals use the phrase “high cholesterol,” this is the type of cholesterol they are referring to.
High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)
HDL is sometimes referred to as the “healthy” cholesterol. HDL protects you from the complications that clogged or narrowed arteries can cause by removing LDL from the bloodstream.
Why is High Cholesterol an Issue for Older Adults?
Once you know the basics about cholesterol, you can begin to understand why it’s a concern for seniors.
- More Time to Accumulate
High cholesterol doesn’t occur overnight; it takes years for arteries to become narrowed and clogged. For seniors, build-up has had a longer time to accumulate.
- Other Conditions Increase Risk for Complications
Conditions like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure are prevalent among seniors. Each of these can increase the risk for complications associated with high cholesterol.
- Unhealthy Diet
Seniors who don’t follow a well-balanced diet are more prone high cholesterol and its associated problems.
How Do You Manage High Cholesterol?
The earlier you adopt a healthy lifestyle, the better your cholesterol levels will be in the long run. Here are a few tips to manage your cholesterol numbers:
- Get your cholesterol checked regularly. If you want to manage your cholesterol, it’s important to check your numbers regularly. Adults over 20 should get their numbers measured every five years. Doing so will allow you and your doctor to address issues before they become a serious concern.
- Adopt a heart-healthy diet. Avoid foods that can raise your cholesterol like saturated fats, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol. Opt for fresh foods, vegetables, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Exercise regularly. Make it a priority to exercise every day. Try to get at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, and strength train at least 2 days a week.
- Medications. If high cholesterol is a concern, it may be a good idea to consult with your doctor about taking medications to help you maintain healthy numbers.
Assisted Living Combines Independence with Support
If your senior loved one is struggling to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, it may be time to consider moving to a senior living community. Most communities offer nutrient-dense meals tailored to the specific needs of senior citizens.