Fighting Bad Cholesterol – A Guide for Seniors

High cholesterol is a condition that occurs largely due to lifestyle choices. It mostly depends on what we eat and live and how our bodies react to such choices. Dietary cholesterol only makes for 25% of the whole proportion. The rest 75% is produced in the liver. It flows in the body when it mixes with a carrier protein known as lipoproteins. Excessive cholesterol builds up as plaque in the arteries and ends up blocking the blood flow. Although the plaque can build up throughout the body’s arteries, it severely effects the coronary arteries, blocking the blood flow to the heart. This can lead to heart diseases. It is worth nothing that all cholesterol is not bad. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are “bad cholesterol”. They are responsible for carrying cholesterol from liver to other parts of the body. Excessive LDL can build up plaque in the coronary arteries. The high-density lipoproteins (HDL) are known as “good cholesterol”.  They carry cholesterol from other parts of the body to the liver for elimination. High cholesterol mostly means that we need to increase our HDL level and decease the LDL level.

High Cholesterol levels are more dangerous with the following risk factors that affect the heart:

Age (45 or older for men and 55 or older for women)

Tendency for high blood pressure



Family history/disposition for heart diseases

Low HDL levels

It becomes extremely important to curb the cholesterol level when two or more risk factors are present.

For seniors, cholesterol can be a serious cause for concern because cardiovascular health is important at all ages. One can mitigate the risk of heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease by lowering the intake of bad cholesterol. One cannot get younger or get rid of genetic dispositions, but by increasing physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight one can ensure better fortification. A sedentary lifestyle increases the chances of high cholesterol. Regular exercise tends to reduce blood pressure and eases hypertension. It also reduces the risk of diabetes. Activities such as walking and taking the stairs go a long way in supporting the cardiovascular health including cholesterol. Activities like gardening, and walking should be preferred over watching television.

Nutrition also plays a very important role in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Processed foods (high in saturated food) tend to increase LDL. Following a diet that is high in fruits and vegetable (9 servings per day) are absolutely essential for reducing LDL. It is important to prepare fresh food whenever possible. Processed food is calorically dense. Leafy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower reduce caloric intake and provide fiber to reduce LDL. Carbohydrate sources like whole wheat bread and pastas should be part of the diet, Bran, brown rice, and oatmeal are great source of fiber. Fish like Tune and Salmon are rich in Omega-3 fatty acid and they are good sources for HDL.

Nutrition can be difficult to manage with ageing. It is an extremely important factor in reducing LDL but it is not always a great idea to limit the nutritional abilities of seniors who find it difficult to keep on weight with age. After a particular age, exercising becomes difficult because the muscles don’t get back to shape as they did. Staying fit becomes harder and one the body is more prone to injuries and strained muscles. Therefore, it becomes more important to do proper warm up and warm down exercises.

Cholesterol medication can be a viable option after taking in consideration the cholesterol level and other risk factors of a patient. Dietary approaches usually work well with exercise but they demand discipline and vigilance, which can be something difficult for seniors with reduced mobility or physical conditions such as arthritis. Drugs can accomplish the goals effectively and cheaply. Sometimes medication may become necessary to reduce cholesterol. The most common forms of cholesterol drugs are known as statins-are effective. These drugs are becoming increasingly more affordable. Statins remove cholesterol from blood to reserve or present the plaque buildup. They come up with fewer side effects, but mostly require the patient to keep using them for life. It is always preferable to stay fit and healthy using proper diet and exercise but when medication becomes the sole choice, one should take it after consulting the doctor.