Cholesterol 101 for Seniors

In the past few decades, cholesterol has gained a lot of attention for the increased risk in heart attacks and other health issues that it can cause.  Cholesterol can be a real issue in seniors who are not as active as they once were; as many people are not aware of their cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol Education

When they were young, many seniors had never heard of cholesterol.  It didn’t begin getting the notoriety that it now has until the mid-1980.  Now it is recognized as a serious health problem.

Cholesterol is not all bad; it is actually necessary for the body.  It is a fat that is made by the liver and surrounds each of the cells within the system.  Here is a list of some of the good things it does:

  • It builds the outer layer of cells and maintains it to prevent hydrocarbons from crystallizing.
  • It helps in the production of androgens and estrogens.
  • It helps in the production of hormones created by the adrenal glands.
  • It assists in the production of bile.
  • It creates Vitamin D from sunshine.
  • It insulates nerve fibers.
  • It helps metabolize certain vitamins.

As you can see, cholesterol has several benefits to our body.  The issue comes with the good vs. bad cholesterol.

Two Kinds of Cholesterol

Most people think of either good or bad cholesterol, when in fact there are three types of cholesterol that fit into one of those two categories.  The LDL cholesterol is seen as the bad kind.  It is carried from the liver to the cells and it gets too high when too much is produced.

The HDL cholesterol is considered to be the good kind.  It takes the fats or lipids away from the cells and breaks it down.

Triglycerides are the third type of cholesterol and is the kind seen most in human bodies.  It is what is used for energy when the body runs out of food to use.  When this happens, people lose weight.

What Causes High Cholesterol?

The normal level for cholesterol is below 200.  This takes into account both the HDL and LDL numbers.  Levels are affected by many factors, including the following:

  • Age – people over 45 often have higher levels of Cholesterol.
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Family history
  • High blood pressure
  • Low HDL levels

How to Manage Cholesterol

Cholesterol levels naturally rise from the teenage years until adulthood, during adulthood the cholesterol supposed to level off and then begin declining around the age 60.  Many experts say if you haven’t developed high cholesterol by the age of 60, you probably never will.  However, many people already have an issue with their cholesterol levels before then and age only makes it worse because of a decrease in physical activity.

Some factors such as family history cannot be changed.  However, other factors can make a difference, such as eating healthier and getting enough exercise.  These are two areas many seniors fail in.  Homecare caregivers that provide assistance to seniors can help them choose better foods for their nutrition and encourage them to get more exercise.

Seniors can go for walks outdoors or work in their gardens to help them get the needed exercise.  When the weather is bad, another option is to go walking in a mall or large store.  For those with advanced arthritis or other health conditions, water exercise can be a good choice for exercise.

Nutrition is often a problem with seniors since they may not eat as healthy as they used to.  Eating fruits and vegetables and limiting intake of high cholesterol foods can help seniors maintain healthy levels of cholesterol in their bodies.

If changes in diet and exercise alone do not bring cholesterol levels into the safe area, medicine may be prescribed to help lower the LDL levels.  However, these are not without potential side effects and family caregivers should be aware of what their senior loved ones are taking.  For many seniors, a cholesterol medication is just one more medicine to add to the list they are already taking.  Multiple medications can also cause drug interactions and make it difficult to sort through the causes.

Certain natural remedies have also gained respect as a way to lower cholesterol levels.  One of the most popular is niacin, but it must be administered carefully under a medical professional’s care due to possible side effects.

If your senior loved one is trying to lower their cholesterol levels, the caregivers at Carefect Homecare Services can help.  Our staff is trained to provide healthy meals for seniors; they will also encourage them to get more exercise.  We provide many services including meal planning, housekeeping, and respite care for your loved ones.