Kimberly Elks is the WakeMed stroke program coordinator.
Next time you think about burgers and fries, think about this: there are many things – including foods high in saturated fat – that can cause arteries to become blocked through the gradual build-up of cholesterol, called plaque.
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy fat (lipid) that is made by the body. It is found in the bloodstream and in all of your body’s cells. Your body needs cholesterol to form cell membranes, some hormones and vitamin D. Cholesterol is also found in some foods, such as eggs, meats and dairy products. Cholesterol or plaque build-up in the arteries can block normal blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke.
High cholesterol may also increase your risk for stroke by raising your risk for heart disease, a stroke risk factor. There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).
- It’s important to understand your cholesterol numbers because they are key measurements of your stroke risk. For most people, the combined HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol) should fall below 200.
- Maintain a healthy cholesterol level by eating a diet low in saturated fat and incorporating exercise into your routine.
- Ask your doctor how you can improve any numbers that are not in normal range.