(BPT) - Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. While it’s often seen as a result of aging, this is a dangerous misconception. Research shows one of the most effective ways to lower the risk of heart attacks or strokes is to reduce your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — also known as “bad” cholesterol — for as long as possible.
Ora Williams, who is in her late 60s, learned she had elevated LDL cholesterol when she was in her 20s, but treatments were limited at that time. Ora knew her family had a long history of heart disease, so she did all she could with what was available to her. Over the years, she lost her father and her 44-year-old brother to heart attacks.
Then, Williams’ son tragically passed from a sudden heart attack. He was just 38 years old.
Soon after Williams discovered she had heart disease and had to have her own heart bypass surgery.
“I knew my family had heart disease,” Williams shared. “I always asked myself — why didn’t I ask more questions or do more before it happened to me?”
According to research from the Family Heart Foundation, a research and advocacy organization helping families navigate their heart health, 7 out of 10 Americans at high risk for cardiovascular disease are not reaching recommended LDL cholesterol levels. This leaves them in danger of a heart attack or stroke.
“Elevated LDL cholesterol is often caused by both genetics and lifestyle,” said Dr. Mary McGowan, chief medical officer at the Family Heart Foundation. “Regardless of its cause, the health risks are severe and consequences can literally be deadly. Our research shows that people at high risk for cardiovascular disease who don’t keep their LDL cholesterol at the recommended level are nearly 50 percent more likely to suffer a cardiac event than those who do.”
The Family Heart Foundation calls the recommended LDL cholesterol level the “Safe Zone.” Today, Williams has finally found the right treatment combination to get to her LDL Safe Zone. As an advocate for the Family Heart Foundation, she helps others make positive changes in their lives.
“I can’t do anything about what happened. But what I can do is take the steps to control my LDL cholesterol. I can tell my story with the hope of saving others from the challenges I faced, and encourage them to get in their Safe Zone.”
While many can lower their LDL cholesterol with a heart-healthy diet, some, like Williams, will need medication to reach their Safe Zone. Some will require more than one medication, known as “combination therapy.” However, only 20% of doctors in the U.S. are using combination therapy for people at high risk for cardiovascular disease. There are many effective therapies available today, and your journey to the LDL Safe Zone might begin with a conversation with your healthcare provider about what will work for you.
Take action now to get to your Safe Zone:
1. Get your cholesterol tested, and ask to see the results before you meet with your healthcare provider.
2. Talk with your healthcare provider about what your results mean, and ask what your recommended LDL cholesterol level is based on your risk.
3. Get to your Safe Zone with effective LDL-lowering treatments and stay there, don’t wait.
4. Make sure you get the correct diagnosis, especially if high cholesterol and heart disease run in your family. You may be at risk for a genetic cholesterol disorder.
To learn more about how to get into the safe zone, visit LDLSafeZone.org.