September is National Cholesterol Month which is a great time to learn about the importance of this fatty chemical that plays such a vital role in your overall health. Two of the leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease and stroke1. High levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of these. 71 million US adults have high cholesterol but 2 in 3 don’t have it under control2.
During this month, reach out to your doctor to discuss your cholesterol levels and guidelines that are appropriate for you based on age, weight, family history, chronic disease, or other pre-existing health conditions. By keeping your cholesterol inside a healthy range, you can avoid commonly associated health risks like heart disease and stroke.
What is Cholesterol and Why Does It Matter?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance. Although too much cholesterol can be harmful, some cholesterol is needed as it plays many roles in the body. It builds cells and makes vitamins, like Vitamin D, and other hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. Cholesterol comes from two sources: your liver and your diet. Most foods that are high in cholesterol come from animals such as milk, eggs, cheese, and meat. The liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs which is why your diet is so important.
Having high cholesterol can be especially dangerous to your health and well-being because it is a silent condition. It has no symptoms, so you are not aware of it unless you have your cholesterol levels tested through a blood test.
Knowing Your Risk of High Cholesterol
There are many “risk factors” that can raise your risk of high cholesterol; certain health conditions such as your lifestyle and your family history can raise your risk. Some of these risk factors are unavoidable but you can take steps to lower your risk for high cholesterol by changing things you can avoid. A diet high in saturated or trans fat, not getting enough physical activity, and smoking can all lead to higher levels. Healthy behaviors can lower your risk so eat a colorful plate, exercise, and stay tobacco free!
Chronic Conditions and High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is important to everyone, but those suffering from certain chronic conditions should be more aware of their cholesterol levels. Two of these major conditions are diabetes and obesity. Diabetes tends to lower the good cholesterol levels (high-density-lipoprotein) and raise the bad cholesterol levels (low-density-lipoprotein), which increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. This condition is called diabetic dyslipidemia, meaning your lipid profile is going in the wrong direction. It’s a combination that puts people at risk for premature coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis.
Obesity draws similar cholesterol issues that diabetes does. The bad cholesterol tends to be high and the good is too low. Body weight has a direct association with cardiovascular risk factors, including high cholesterol. This means that as weight increases, so does the “bad” or LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. The foods you eat, and the amount of exercise done can play a huge role in obesity and cholesterol levels. Talk to your doctor about weight loss goals and developing a plan.
How VitalCare Can Help
According to a study from 2016, people at high risk for cardiovascular disease found that compared with in-person treatment alone, telehealth monitoring combined with in-office care led to slight improvements in: diet, exercise, medication use, and satisfaction with medical care3.
VitalCare empowers patients to fulfill their goals of high cholesterol treatment by guiding them with lifestyle changes such as improved diet, exercise habits, weight loss and/or quitting smoking.
- Weight: Through VitalCare, patients can reduce their risk of developing high levels of cholesterol by monitoring their weight with the use of a BLE or LTE connected weight scale that allows them and their doctors to track weight gain or loss and trends over time. Studies show that patients that use connected weight scales daily led to greater adoption of weight control behaviors and produced greater weight loss.3
- Nutrition: Care teams can work directly with patients to manage their diet and promote subtle changes in behavior through the VitalCare nutrition module where patients can record their daily food intakes. Nutritional data is logged through voice inputs or simple barcode scanning. Care teams can utilize this data in discussions with patients to assist them in staying on track with their health goals. Diet is one of the most important parts of maintaining good cholesterol levels so having the opportunity to document nutrition and track it in real time will hold the patient accountable and increase engagement, all leading to healthier patients and better outcomes.
- Medication: If a patient has been prescribed a medication such as statins for high cholesterol, VitalCare’s medication module may be used to monitor compliance and effectiveness. If a family member or clinician notices a patient has not been regularly taking their medication, they are able to reach out via VitalCare to send gentle reminders to aid in adherence.
- Activity: Exercise may also be recorded through VitalCare. Patients are encouraged to speak with their physician to determine exercise and weight loss goals that are right for them to help make the right lifestyle changes.
- Communication: Patients can interact with their care teams at any time through VitalCare to discuss not only cholesterol, but any symptoms or concerns they may be experiencing. Care teams have the ability to send surveys and questionnaires that can be tailored to a patient’s high cholesterol. For example, care teams made ask if a patient is experiencing chest pain or pressure, leg pain after walking, numbness or weakness on one side of their body, etc. This supplies care teams with information provided directly from the patient.
National Cholesterol Month is a time to educate yourself and others on the effects of having potentially harmful cholesterol levels. Throughout this month we will continue to share information to keep you informed.
To learn more on how VitalCare assists patients in controlling their cholesterol, contact us!