Wellness Wednesday: Breast Cancer Facts and Figures

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Mercy Health System wants you to know the facts about breast cancer and understand that early detection is the key to survival.

Facts about Breast Cancer in the United States

  • BreastCancerOne in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women.
  • Each year it is estimated that over 220,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die.
  • Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,150 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 410 will die each year.
  • Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older, but breast cancer also affects younger women. About 11 percent of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age.

BreastCancer2A Global Burden

According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of women each year and affecting countries at all levels of modernization.

Good News about Breast Cancer Trends

In recent years, perhaps coinciding with the decline in prescriptive hormone replacement therapy after menopause, we have seen a gradual reduction in female breast cancer incidence rates among women aged 50 and older. Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990, in part to better due to screening and early detection, increased awareness, and continually improving treatment options.

Factors That Decrease Breast Cancer Risk

  • Being older when you first had your menstrual period.
  • Starting menopause at an earlier age.
  • Giving birth to more children, being younger at the birth of your first child, and breastfeeding your children.
  • Getting regular exercise.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.

Factors That Increase Breast Cancer Risk

  • Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy.
  • Personal history of breast cancer or non-cancerous breast diseases.
  • Family history of breast cancer (on either your mother’s or father’s side of the family).
  • Treatment with radiation therapy to the breast/chest.
  • Dense breasts by mammogram.
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Night-shift work.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Watch Mercy Health System′s 2016 Pink Glove Dance video and share with your friends!

Wellness Wednesday: There are Breast Cancer Risk Factors You Can Control

Many risk factors can increase your chance of developing breast cancer, but it is not yet known exactly how some of these risk factors cause cells to become cancerous. Hormones seem to play a role in many cases of breast cancer, but just how this happens is not fully understood.

breastcancereventNormal breast cells become cancerous because of changes in DNA. Some DNA changes are inherited. This means they are in every cell in your body and can dramatically increase the risk for developing certain cancers. They are responsible for many of the cancers that run in some families. But most DNA changes related to breast cancer are acquired in breast cells during a woman’s life rather than having been inherited.

There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer. You can’t change some factors, such as getting older or your family history. But there are things you can do that might lower your risk, such as changing risk factors that you can control.

Body weight, physical activity and diet have all been linked to breast cancer, so these might be areas where you can take action. Read the American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention to learn more.

“Controllable” Risk Factors

Drinking alcohol

Drinking alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Compared with non-drinkers, women who have 1 alcoholic drink a day have a very small increase in risk. Those who have 2 to 5 drinks daily have about 1½ times the risk of women who don’t drink alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption is known to increase the risk of other cancers, too.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women have no more than one alcoholic drink a day. A drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Being overweight or obese

Being overweight or obese after menopause increases breast cancer risk. Before menopause, most estrogen is made in the ovaries, and fat tissue makes only a small amount. After menopause, most of a woman’s estrogen comes from fat tissue. Having more fat tissue after menopause can raise estrogen levels and increase your chance of getting breast cancer. Also, women who are overweight tend to have higher blood insulin levels. Higher insulin levels have been linked to some cancers, including breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends you stay at a healthy weight throughout your life by balancing your food intake with physical activity and avoiding excessive weight gain.

Senior women exercising in the parkPhysical activity

Evidence is growing that exercise reduces breast cancer risk. But how much is needed to make a difference? In one study from the Women’s Health Initiative, as little as 1¼ to 2½ hours per week of brisk walking reduced a woman’s risk by 18 percent. Walking 10 hours a week reduced the risk a little more.

To reduce your risk of breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week.

Having children

Women who have not had children or who had their first child after age 30 have a slightly higher breast cancer risk overall. Having multiple pregnancies and becoming pregnant at an early age reduces overall breast cancer risk  Still, the effect of pregnancy is different for different types of breast cancer.


Some studies suggest that breastfeeding may slightly lower breast cancer risk, especially if it’s continued for 1½ to 2 years. The explanation for this possible effect may be that breastfeeding reduces a woman’s total number of lifetime menstrual cycles. Women who choose to breastfeed for at even the first several months may also get an added benefit of reducing their breast cancer risk.

Birth control

Studies have found that women using oral contraceptives (birth control pills) have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer than women who have never used them. Once the pills are stopped, this risk seems to go back to normal over time.

Hormone therapy after menopause

Hormone therapy with estrogen (often combined with progesterone) has been used for many years to help relieve symptoms of menopause and help prevent osteoporosis. There are two main types of hormone therapy.

Combined hormone therapy (HT): Use of HT after menopause increases the risk of breast cancer. It may also increase the chances of dying from breast cancer. This increase in risk can be seen with as little as two (2) years of use. Combined HT also increases the likelihood that the cancer may be found at a more advanced stage. The decision to use HT should be made by a woman and her doctor after weighing the possible risks and benefits (including the severity of her menopausal symptoms), and considering her other risk factors for heart disease, breast cancer and osteoporosis.

Estrogen therapy (ET): The use of estrogen alone after menopause does not seem to increase the risk of breast cancer much, if at all. But when used long term (for more than 10 years), ET has been found to increase the risk of ovarian and breast cancer in some studies.

Uncontrollable Risk Factors

The main risk factors for breast cancer are things you cannot change: being a woman, getting older, and having certain gene changes. These make your risk of breast cancer higher. But having a risk factor, or even many, does not mean that you are sure to get the disease.

istock_000006637453_largeBeing a woman

Men can have breast cancer; but this disease is about 100 times more common in women than in men. This might be because men have less of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, which can promote breast cancer cell growth.

Getting older

As you get older, your risk of breast cancer goes up. Most invasive breast cancers are found in women age 55 and older.

Certain inherited genes

About 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, meaning that they result directly from gene defects (called mutations) passed on from a parent.

Early menstruation or late menopause

Women who have had more menstrual cycles because they started menstruating early (before age 12) or because they went through menopause later (after age 55) have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. The increase in risk may be due to a longer lifetime exposure to the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Having radiation to your chest

Women who as children or young adults were treated with radiation therapy to the chest for another cancer have a significantly higher risk for breast cancer. This varies with the patient’s age when they got radiation. And if you had chemotherapy with the radiation, it might have stopped ovarian hormone production for some time, which lowers the risk.


Most women who have one or more breast cancer risk factors never develop breast cancer, while many women with breast cancer have no known risk factors (other than being a woman and growing older). Even when a woman with risk factors develops breast cancer, it’s hard to know just how much these factors might have contributed.

The most important thing is to know your body and ask your doctor about any changes you might notice. Do breast self exams and don′t forget to schedule a mammogram. Preventive screenings are the best way to detect breast cancer early, when it is more easily and successfully treatable. Mammography can detect changes in breast tissue before you can even feel it.

The American Cancer Society released new recommendations* in 2015 for screening mammograms for women at average risk for breast cancer.

Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so. The risks of screening as well as the potential benefits should be considered.

Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.

Women age 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or have the choice to continue yearly screening.

Mercy Health System offers free walk-in screening mammograms at Mercy Fitzgerald and Mercy Philadelphia Hospital each week. No appointment is necessary.

Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital Walk-In Screening Mammograms

breast-cancer-ribbonSr. Marie Lenahan Wellness Center
Women’s Imaging Suite
Every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Physician prescription, insurance card and photo ID required.
For more information, call 610.237.2525.

Mercy Philadelphia Hospital Walk-In Screening Mammograms

Medical Office Building
Radiology Registration
Wednesdays & Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Physician prescription, insurance card and photo ID required.
For more information, call 610.237.2525.

Sources: American Cancer Society, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

*Leading organizations differ on their recommendations for when to begin screening for mammography. This information should be reviewed with your personal physician to determine when is the right time for you to begin a screening regimen. 

Watch Mercy Health System’s 2016 Pink Glove Dance to support National Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

More Information

What Is Breast Cancer Screening?
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer in Young Women
Breast Cancer Risk Factors Breast Cancer Risk Factors [breastcancer.org]
Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Risk Factors Table

Wellness Wednesday: Early Detection Saves Lives

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early and studies show that finding breast cancer early saves lives.

Nurse Assisting Patient About To Have A MammogramDuring National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Mercy Health System would like to encourage you to care for yourself, or the women in your life, by reminding you of the importance of regular screenings.

The American Cancer Society and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommends that women begin having annual mammograms starting at age 40*. However, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests beginning annual mammograms at age 50 and women between the ages of 40 and 49 should consult with their health professional about when she should have a mammogram.

Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital and Mercy Philadelphia Hospital both provide free Walk-in Mammograms every week. No appointment is necessary. Just bring your insurance card, physician prescription and photo ID.

Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital Walk-In Screening Mammograms

breast-cancer-ribbonSr. Marie Lenahan Wellness Center
Women’s Imaging Suite
Every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Physician prescription, insurance card and photo ID required.
For more information, call 610.237.2525.

Mercy Philadelphia Hospital Walk-In Screening Mammograms

Medical Office Building
Radiology Registration
Wednesdays & Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Physician prescription, insurance card and photo ID required.
For more information, call 610.237.2525.

It is also recommended that women have a clinical breast exam every three years during their 20s and 30s and every year over the age of 40. Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a health care provider right away. Breast self-exams are an option for women starting in their 20s.

There are certain circumstances under which you should consult your Primary Care Physician (PCP) before scheduling a mammogram. If you are pregnant or have been breastfeeding during the last six months, call your doctor and ask if a mammogram would be appropriate.

To find a Mercy Health physician, visit our website at www.mercyhealth.org/find-a-doctor.

* The American Cancer Society issued new guidelines for breast cancer screenings in October 2015. Read the CNN news report.

Watch Mercy Health System′s 2016 Pink Glove Dance video and share with your friends!

More Information:





Wellness Wednesday: Prostate Health Awareness Month

African American boy and group of teens in blue shirtsDid you know that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men?

Mercy Health System would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to care for yourself, and your loved ones, by reminding you of the importance of preventive care.

As they say, “the best defense is a good offense,” and, thankfully, disease prevention begins with a variety of factors including understanding the risks – the ones we can control and the ones we can’t. According to the American Cancer Society, risk factors for prostate cancer include:


The chance of having prostate cancer rises rapidly after age 50. Nearly two out of three prostate cancers are found in men over the age of 65.


Prostate cancer occurs more often in African-American men than in men of other races. African-American men are also more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage and are more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as white men. Prostate cancer occurs less often in Asian-American and Hispanic/Latino men than in non-Hispanic whites. The reasons for these racial and ethnic differences are not clear.

Family history

Prostate cancer seems to run in some families, which suggests that there may be an inherited or genetic factor. Having a father or brother has been diagnosed more than doubles a man’s risk of developing this disease.


Men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products appear to have a slightly higher chance of getting prostate cancer. These men also tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables. Doctors are not sure which of these factors is responsible for raising the risk.


Most studies have not found that being obese is linked with a higher risk of getting prostate cancer. Some studies have found that obese men have a lower risk of getting a less dangerous form of the disease, but a higher risk of getting more aggressive one. The reasons for this are not clear.

While knowing the physical risk factors is key in helping prevent any disease, so is maintaining a healthy spirit. For example:

  • Remaining optimistic. Research shows that happiness and a positive attitude are associated with lower rates of disease. Focus on your thoughts — stop negative ones and replace them with positive ones.
  • Controlling stress. Stress relievers like deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises and keeping a journal, can be helpful in controlling the impact stress has on your body.
  • Doing everything in moderation. Don’t try to do too much at one time – make sure to have time for proper nutrition, sleep, work and play.
  • Creating a network. Maintaining a close circle of family and friends can provide you with support when you need it.

Lastly, getting annual screening tests from your Primary Care Physician (PCP) is vital to sustaining your health and helping prevent diseases. Having a PCP who can coordinate your care is vital to your good health. If you don’t have a PCP, just visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions. To find a Mercy physician, visit http://www.mercyhealth.org/find-a-doctor.

More Information

CDC Prostate Cancer Feature

Prostate Cancer Foundation

Wellness Wednesday: Keeping Children Safe in the Car

“Right Seat. Right Time. Right Use”

Installing child safety chair on back seat of the carThe week of September 18-24, 2016 is Child Passenger Safety Week. Every parent wants to protect their children and keep them safe. The best way to protect children in a car is to secure them in the right seat, at the right time, and to use it the right way.

The just-released NHTSA 2015 National Survey of the Use of Booster Seats shows 37.4 percent of children ages 4 to 7 in the U.S. were not being properly restrained. Of that number, 25.8 percent were restrained by seat belts and 11.6 percent were unrestrained completely. 13.6 percent of children from 1 to 3 years old were prematurely transitioned to booster seats, a significant increase from the prior year.

In 2015, there were 35,092 motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the United States. That’s 2,348 more fatalities than the 32,744 in 2014. This 7.2 percent increase is the largest percentage increase in nearly 50 years.

Pennsylvania Crash Facts and Seat Belt Numbers

  • In 2015, there were 127,127 reportable traffic crashes in Pennsylvania. These crashes claimed the lives of 1,200 people and injured another 80,004 people.
  • On average in Pennsylvania:
    • Each day 348 reportable traffic crashes occurred—about 15 crashes every hour.
    • Each day 225 persons were injured in reportable crashes—about 9 injuries every hour.
  • In every age group, male drivers are involved in more crashes than female drivers. Male drivers ages 21-25 were involved in more crashes than drivers in any other age group (male or female).
  • In 2015, more crashes occurred in daylight than all other light levels combined. And the vast majority occurred under no adverse conditions (i.e., rain, snow, fog, etc.).
  • The combination of lap/shoulder seat belts, when used, reduces the risk of fatal injuries to front seat passenger car occupants by 45% and the risk of moderate-to-critical injuries by 50%.
  • Pennsylvania seat belt usage rate was 79.4% in 2015. National statistics show that for every one percent increase in seat belt usage, 8 to 12 lives can be saved on the highways.
  • Research shows that children are likely to be buckled 92% of the time when adults are buckled and only 72% of the time when adults are not buckled. Everyone should buckle up, every time!
  • All passengers should wear a seat belt whenever riding in a motor vehicle—even for short distances. Three out of four crashes occur within 25 miles of home.
  • From 2011-2015, 82% of the children under age 4 who were involved in crashes and restrained in a child seat sustained no injury.

(Source: 2015 Pennsylvania Crash Facts and Statistics)

Child Safety Seats Statistics

Happy baby girl in a car seat

  • Motor vehicle traffic crashes were the leading cause of death for children age 4 and the second leading cause of death for children age 3 and every age 5 through 14 in 2013.
  • Every 33 seconds a child under age 13 is involved in a crash.
  • NHTSA estimates that correctly used child restraints are even more effective than seat belts in reducing fatalities. Child restraints reduce fatalities by 71% for infants younger than one year old and by 54% for children 1 to 4 years old in passenger cars.
  • Among children younger than age 5, an estimated 252 lives were saved in 2014 by restraint use. At 100% child safety seat use for those under 5 years old, an additional 37 could have been saved in 2014.
  • Booster seat use among 4- to 7-year-old children was 44.5% in 2015. The appropriate restraint system for 4- to 7-year-old children is either a forward-facing car seat or a booster seat, depending on the child’s height and weight.
  • Restraint use among children 8 to 12 years old whose height is between 37 to 53 inches decreased significantly to 83.4% in 2015 from 90% in 2013.

 (Source: NHTSA)

Area Car Seat Safety Checks

csa_2015_29Saturday, September 24 is National Seat Check Saturday. Parents can bring their children and infant car seats to the following area locations over the next few days to be checked and shown how to properly install them.

Chester County:

September 22, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

West Goshen Police Department
1025 Paoli Pike, West Chester, PA 19380

Appointment Required: For an appointment, call Charlie Vilotti at 610.906.2711 or email cvilotti@chesco.org.

September 24, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Kelly Chevrolet
600 Nutt Road, Route 23, Phoenixville, PA 19460
For an appointment, call Charlie Vilotti at 610.906.2711 or email cvilotti@chesco.org. Walk-Ins welcome.

Delaware County:

September 23, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Trooper Greene, 484.840.1000
PA State Police – Media
1342 W. Baltimore Pike, Media, PA 19063

Montgomery County:

September 22, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

SEPA Safe Kids
Battalion 1 Fire Station
325 Stump Road, Montgomeryville, PA 18936
Appointment Required: Schedule online at www.chop.edu/kohlschildsafety

September 24, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Trooper Wright, 610.584.2832
Upper Frederick Township Building
3205 Big Road, Obelisk, PA 19492

Philadelphia County:

September 24, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

SEPA Safe Kids
AAA Car Care Insurance & Travel Center
1601 S. Columbus Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19148
Appointment Required: Schedule online at www.chop.edu/kohlschildsafety

For more information:

Pennsylvania’s Child Passenger Protection Laws

How to Find the Right Car Seat


Wellness Wednesday: It’s Healthy Aging Month

Chinese Grandparents Sitting With Grandchildren In ParkPeople in the U.S. are living longer than ever before. Many seniors live active and healthy lives. But there’s no getting around one thing: as we age, our bodies and minds change. There are things you can do to stay healthy and active as you age:

Eat a balanced diet

Studies show that a good diet in your later years reduces your risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart diseases and certain cancers. As you age, you might need less energy. But you still need just as many of the nutrients in food.

Keep your mind and body active

Exercise is perhaps the best demonstrated way to maintain good health, fitness, and independence. Research has shown that regular physical activity improves quality of life for older adults and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease and many other illnesses and disabilities. In many ways, it is the best prescription we have for healthy, successful aging.

Don’t smoke

iStock_000018054489_LargeDo we really need to explain this one? Smoking is bad for you. So if you smoke, you should quit. There are many programs out there that can help you kick the habit. Visit the classes and events page on our website to join a free smoking cessation group, or ask your doctor for more information on ways to quit. Even if you’ve spent a lifetime smoking, you will benefit from stopping now.

Get regular checkups

Regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start. They also can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better. Which exams and screenings you need depends on your age, health and family history, and lifestyle choices such as what you eat, how active you are, and whether you smoke.

To make the most of your next check-up, here are some things to do before you go:

Practice safety habits to avoid accidents and prevent falls

A fall can change your life. If you’re elderly, it can lead to disability and a loss of independence. If your bones are fragile from osteoporosis, you could break a bone, often a hip. But aging alone doesn’t make people fall. Diabetes and heart disease affect balance. So do problems with circulation, thyroid or nervous systems. Some medicines make people dizzy. Eye problems or alcohol can be factors. Any of these things can make a fall more likely.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NIH: National Institute on Aging

Wellness Wednesday: Keeping Your Cholesterol in Check

SeniorsSeptember is National Cholesterol Education Month, a good time to get your blood cholesterol checked and take steps to lower it if it is high. More than 102 million American Adults have total cholesterol levels above healthy levels (at or above 200 mg/dL). More than 35 million of these people have levels of 240 mg/dL or higher, which puts them at high risk for heart disease.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and in many foods. Your body needs cholesterol to function normally and makes all that you need. Too much cholesterol can build up in your arteries. After a while, these deposits narrow your arteries, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke. Not all cholesterol is bad. Cholesterol is just one of the many substances created and used by our bodies to keep us healthy.

Total cholesterol is a measure of the total amount of cholesterol in your blood and is based on the HDL, LDL and triglycerides numbers.

HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol

HDL cholesterol absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver, which flushes it from the body. HDL is known as “good” cholesterol because having high levels can reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke. Low HDL cholesterol puts you at higher risk for heart disease. People with high blood triglycerides usually also have lower HDL cholesterol. Genetic factors, type 2 diabetes, smoking, being overweight and being sedentary can all result in lower HDL cholesterol.

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol

LDL cholesterol makes up the majority of the body’s cholesterol. LDL is known as “bad” cholesterol because having high levels can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries and result in heart disease and stroke. However, your LDL number should no longer be the main factor in guiding treatment to prevent heart attack and stroke, according to new guidelines from the American Heart Association. For patients taking statins, the guidelines say they no longer need to get LDL cholesterol levels down to a specific target number. A diet high in saturated and trans fats raises LDL cholesterol.


Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood that your body uses for energy. Normal triglyceride levels vary by age and sex. A high triglyceride level combined with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol is associated with atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty deposits in artery walls that increases the risk for heart attack and stroke

How do you know if your cholesterol is high?

cholesterolHigh cholesterol usually doesn’t have any symptoms. As a result, many people do not know that their cholesterol levels are too high. However, doctors can do a simple blood test to check your cholesterol. High cholesterol can be controlled through lifestyle changes or if it is not enough, through medications.

It’s important to check your cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends that adults aged 20 years or older have their cholesterol checked every 5 years.

Preventive guidelines for cholesterol screening among young adults differ, but experts agree on the need to screen young adults who have other risk factors for coronary heart disease: obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and family history

Conditions That Increase Risk for High Cholesterol

Diabetes mellitus increases the risk for high cholesterol. Your body needs glucose (sugar) for energy. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps move glucose from the food you eat to your body’s cells. If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin, can’t use its own insulin as well as it should, or both. So this causes sugars to build up in the blood.

Behaviors That Increase Your Risk for High Cholesterol

Unhealthy Diet: Diets high in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol have been linked to high cholesterol and related conditions, such as heart disease.

Physical Inactivity: Not getting enough physical activity can make you gain weight, which can lead to high cholesterol.

Obesity: Obesity is excess body fat. Obesity is linked to higher triglycerides and higher LDL cholesterol, and lower HDL cholesterol. In addition to high cholesterol, obesity can also lead to heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Talk to your health care team about a plan to reduce your weight to a healthy level.

Family History Can Increase Risk for High Cholesterol

Portrait Of Extended Family Group In ParkWhen members of a family pass traits from one generation to another through genes, that process is called heredity.

Genetic factors likely play some role in high cholesterol, heart disease and other related conditions. However, it is also likely that people with a family history of high cholesterol share common environments and other potential factors that increase their risk.

If you have a family history of high cholesterol, you are more likely to have high cholesterol. You may need to get your cholesterol levels checked more often than people who do not have a family history of high cholesterol.

The risk for high cholesterol can increase even more when heredity combines with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as eating an unhealthy diet.

Some people have an inherited genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia. This condition causes very high LDL cholesterol levels beginning at a young age.

If you have high cholesterol, what can you do to lower it?

Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat your high cholesterol. In addition, you can lower your cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes:

  • Low-fat and high-fiber food (Eat more fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and whole grains).
  • For adults, getting at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week. For those aged 6-17, getting 1 hour or more of physical activity each day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Don’t smoke or quit if you smoke.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Heart Association

More Information:

Know the Facts About High Cholesterol [CDC Fact Sheet]

American Heart Association’s Cholesterol SmartHub