SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- According to the American Heart Association, approximately 98 million Americans have high cholesterol.
It is a very serious and very dangerous condition. If french fries and other high fat foods are a staple in your diet, you probably have it.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all cells of the body. But when there is too much of it, it can clog the walls of your arteries, blocking life-giving oxygen flowing to your heart.
The result? Atherosclerosis. And that means a higher risk of stroke, heart disease, and death.
"My dad was diagnosed when he was around 35," says Denis Dunn. "He was taking medicine for it and he had a triple bypass at the age of 45 due to the high cholesterol."
Now Denise, too, is battling high cholesterol.
There are 2 types of cholesterol. HDL, the good one that actually helps fight heart disease, and the bad one, LDL, which can build up in your blood vessels blocking oxygen to you heart.
It's important you know your cholesterol levels, especially if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, if you're a smoker or if you have a family history of heart disease, like Denise does.
"I have looked back at my chart and seems like my good cholesterol continues to stay the same -- if not go down. And my bad cholesterol continues to be rising. The doctor had told my dad that he needed all of his children to get checked for high cholesterol, so that prompted me to get it checked and came back."
On average, one person dies from cardiovascular disease every 39 seconds. In most cases, high cholesterol levels can be controlled with lifestyle modifications, a healthier diet (low fat high fiber foods), more exercise (and less time in front of the TV), weight loss (excess weight particularly belly fat is a prominent indicator for heart disease), and stopping smoking.
If those lifestyle modifications don't help within a few months, you may prescribe medications. I recommend that if you are 20 years or older that you get your cholesterol checked and make those changes if you need to. It could literally save your life.