8 Min Read
Controlling Your Cholesterol as You Age
Maintaining heart health is vital for seniors. While high cholesterol is common in U.S. adults, it’s particularly dangerous for seniors, as it’s a risk factor for heart disease. Because high cholesterol shows no symptoms, it’s referred to as a silent killer. Learn what you can do to control your cholesterol as you age.
What is Cholesterol?
According to Mayo Clinic, cholesterol is a waxy substance in the blood that your body needs to build healthy cells. There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), considered the “bad” cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as “good” cholesterol.
When your LDL cholesterol levels are high, fatty deposits can develop in your blood vessels. When these deposits grow, they can block blood flow to your arteries, sometimes causing a heart attack or stroke.
An LDL cholesterol level of 129 mg/dL or lower is ideal for seniors. If you’re at a high risk of heart disease, 70 mg/dL or lower is ideal.
Controlling Your Cholesterol
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing cholesterol for seniors, but healthy lifestyle choices can help. Since high cholesterol has no symptoms, you should do everything possible to keep your LDL cholesterol levels low and improve your HDL levels.
A heart-healthy diet is essential for seniors, and diet largely influences cholesterol levels. A few simple changes can make a difference in reducing your cholesterol levels:
- Reduce your intake of saturated fats, often found in red meat and full-fat dairy products.
- Avoid trans fats, often found in margarine and store-bought snacks like cookies, crackers, and cakes.
- Eat more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed.
- Increase your soluble fiber intake by eating more fiber-rich foods like oatmeal, apples, and pears.
According to the American Addiction Centers, drinking more than one 5-ounce serving of wine, beer, hard liquor, or mixed drinks is likely to increase LDL cholesterol levels. If you drink alcohol, you should do so in moderation (with approval from your doctor).
Regular exercise can lower your LDL cholesterol levels by up to 15% and raise your HDL cholesterol levels by up to 20%. According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention, adults 65 and older need at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity. Examples include:
- Brisk walking
- Water aerobics
- Riding a bike
Talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight depends on many variables, most importantly eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and exercising regularly, as mentioned above. Other factors, like stress and getting enough sleep (7-9 hours per night), can also affect your weight. Even just a few extra pounds can contribute to high LDL cholesterol levels.
A healthy weight is different for everyone. BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a useful tool to know if your weight is in the healthy range. BMI compares your height and body weight to calculate your body fat percentage. You can use this BMI calculator to find out yours.
- Underweight = less than 18.5
- Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
- Overweight = 25–29.9
- Obese = 30 or greater
Talk to Your Doctor
A blood test is the only way to know you have high cholesterol. If your doctor prescribes medication to lower your cholesterol levels, take it as directed and continue to make healthy lifestyle choices.