Celebrating 80 Years: The Eighth Decade (2009-2019)

Celebrating 80 Years | The 8th Decade | Photo of the UM Charles Regional Medical Center exterior

In the past 10 years, we have simultaneously focused our efforts on contemplatively respecting the past and propelling ourselves into a bright and hopeful future.

Revitalizing our original building turned historic landmark was one of our foremost tasks. The former site of Physicians Memorial Hospital was transferred to Civista’s ownership in 2010. After a $500,000 renovation process, we were able to convert our original space to further localize care for the residents of La Plata. 

“I remember when I first came to the facility it was inadequate,” the late Dr. Guillermo Sanchez said at the time. “But the hospital has grown and become a leader in health care in Southern Maryland.”  

To commemorate this growth and the hospital’s new access to an extensive network of advanced health services, Civista Medical Center became the University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center in 2013. This signified its membership in a prestigious 12-hospital system and deepened our commitment to bring world-class medical care to the people of Charles County.

In 2016, we brought on a new face to take the hospital to even greater heights than the past decades could even imagine. Joseph Moser, MD, became the new chief medical officer following 18 years as vice president of medical affairs at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis.

“I’m excited about this opportunity to work with the physicians and staff at Charles Regional,” Moser said. “This is a high-performing hospital in a premier health system, and it’s a privilege to join a team of this caliber in working to enhance health care for people in Charles County.” 

Over this past decade, we have strived to provide exceptional, award-worthy care to our patients. From our Get with the Guidelines Stroke Award for our commitment to educating the public about stroke prevention to our Workplace Center for Life recognition for promoting organ and tissue donation, we have consistently been recognized for giving back to our community. 

And we intend to do so for the next 80 years and beyond.

Miss any of the past stories from our “Celebrating 80 Years” series? Check out the posts below:

The First Decade (1939-1949)
The Second Decade (1949-1959)
The Third Decade (1959-1969)
The Fourth Decade (1969-1979)
The Fifth Decade (1979-1989)
The Sixth Decade (1989-1999)
The Seventh Decade (1999-2009)

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Important Tips for Maintaining Mental Wellness During the Holidays

Photo of a man holding his head in his hands

Feeling lonely, sadness due to personal losses, and even conditions like seasonal-affective disorder — these are all issues that can affect people during the holiday season. It should come as no surprise, either; it’s an especially busy and stressful time of year, and it can be easy to feel lost among all the excitement. 

Fortunately, there are some relatively simple ways to control your stress levels and promote a healthy mindset. Here are a few strategies for maintaining mental wellness around the holidays:

Budget Your Money and Your Time

Whether or not holiday stress, anxiety, depression or loneliness is something you’ve dealt with before, it’s always a great idea to be proactive this time of year. Here are some things you should budget out ahead of time:

Money – It can feel like there’s never enough money to get everything you want for everyone on your list. Financial wellness is connected to mental wellness, so don’t start working on your wishlist until you have a clear idea of how much you can afford without feeling uncomfortable about what’s on your credit card or in your bank account.

Time – With all the holiday parties, happenings, get-togethers, and shopping trips to get through — on top of your normal work and family responsibilities — your calendar can get out of control fast. Take a look at the next few weeks ahead and block out time for yourself along the way. You’d be surprised how much less stressful everything can feel if you plan it all out ahead of time. 

Feel Empowered to Say No When Necessary

Even if you don’t really celebrate the holidays as much as other people, you’re still going to be asked for something by someone this time of year.

It’s 100% OK to say no when you feel like you’re taking on more than you can handle — whether it’s to someone inviting you to join them for an event or simply a local charity asking you for a donation. Not making it to every event isn’t going to make-or-break a relationship with someone, and not making a donation doesn’t make you a bad person.

Go Easy on Yourself

Even the best-laid plans for happy holidays go awry every now and then. Sometimes, our self-control loses out to the delicious food and drinks that surround us this time of year, or we spend just a little bit too much on gifts for friends and family. Just remember, no one is perfect, and what you do during the few weeks surrounding the holidays can’t and won’t define you for the next 12 months.

Stick With Routines You Know Work

You probably have normal routines that help keep you balanced and energized throughout the year. It could be your nightly walk outside, the hour you carve out every day to read a book, or the daily trip to the gym.

Whatever activity you count on to keep yourself happy and calm, stick with it as best as possible. You’ll find that all the excitement, energy, and stress that come along with the holidays aren’t quite as jarring when you’re sticking with things that are familiar and comfortable.

Never Be Afraid to Ask for Help

The feeling of loneliness and isolation is a big problem for many people this time of year, but there’s always someone who can help. If, despite your best efforts, you find that you’re still struggling to keep everything together, don’t be afraid to talk with friends, family members, or a medical professional about what you’re feeling.

If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis during the holidays — or any other time — free and confidential support is available 24/7 from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and it can be reached by calling 1-800-273-8255.

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Why National Influenza Vaccination Week Is So Important

Photo of a person receiving a vaccination shot

Did you know that, every year since 2005, the week of December 1-7 has been designated as National Influenza Vaccination Week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)?

If the fact that it takes place so late in the year strikes you as surprising, you’re not alone. But there are some really important reasons why the CDC and its partners highlight the need to get the flu shot as we head into winter — and some good reasons why everyone should pay attention.

Why Now?

You might be thinking to yourself, “if you haven’t gotten the flu shot by now, why bother?” 

It’s probably a common question because, according to the CDC, flu vaccination rates usually trend downward near the end of November. This is because people start getting busier with the holidays and many people even overlook just how common the seasonal flu is during the month of December and beyond.

Don’t believe us? Take a look at the chart below, which highlights the months in which peak flu activity was observed from 1982 through 2018. You can see that things really start picking up right around December.

Chart of peak flu activity from the CDC

(Chart source: CDC)

What this means is — if you or someone you know hasn’t yet received their seasonal flu vaccination — it’s not too late!

As more people come together for the holidays, the likelihood of spreading or catching the seasonal influenza virus is greater than ever. And even if you don’t want to get vaccinated for yourself, you should do it (assuming you’re medically able to do so) to protect those around you who may have a compromised immune system.

What if I’ve Already Gotten the Flu?

You can and should still get the flu vaccine! Since there are a variety of influenza virus strains that are spread every year, there’s no way to tell which strain you were previously infected with. And the seasonal flu vaccine may be able to help protect you from other strains.

Where to Receive the Seasonal Flu Vaccine

If you live in Southern Maryland, there are several places you can turn to for the seasonal flu vaccine for little or no cost to you.

Many local stores and pharmacies offer walk-in clinics where standard vaccinations are offered. You can also visit your primary care physician, who can administer the shot for you. Don’t have a primary care doctor? Visit our website to learn more about UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Primary Care in La Plata, and call (301) 609-5044 to schedule an appointment.

Don’t have insurance or worried that it won’t cover the full cost? The Charles County Department of Health offers free walk-in flu vaccinations from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. Its office is located at 4545 Crain Highway, White Plains, MD 20695.

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Celebrating 80 Years: The Seventh Decade (1999-2009)

Celebrating 80 Years: The Seventh Decade

On April 28, 2002, another tornado brought pain and destruction to Charles County. This one ended up taking most of La Plata with it.

It destroyed infrastructure. It damaged buildings. It left lasting wounds in every corner of the community. 

“That night,” reads La Plata’s Memory Lane Exhibition, “the employees of Civista Medical Center rose to the occasion.”

With an influx of 70 patients, the hospital’s team, especially those from the emergency department, and volunteers rallied together to show the true meaning of a community hospital. They embodied a triumphant spirit in the face of disaster.

The First Expansion of Civista

With its relatively new name, Civista Medical Center introduced its first expansion that was completed and dedicated in September 2007. Dr. Seetaramayya Nagula, the first gastroenterologist at Civista, gave the dedication.

He praised the hospital’s consistent commitment to employing top-of-the-line equipment and staff and its resilience in the face of the decade’s tragedies. In the years to come, he would eventually spend three years as the hospital’s chief of staff, and the hospital would help more patients than ever before.

Stay tuned to our blog for the final story about our hospital over the past eight decades. And be sure to follow us on Facebook — we’ll be sharing facts and photos from over the years throughout 2019.

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Celebrating 80 Years: The Sixth Decade (1989-1999)

Celebrating 80 Years - The Sixth Decade

By the time the 1990s rolled around, the hospital was a fully accredited, full-service facility, and it was able to give back to the community, inside and outside of the hospital walls, more so than ever before. 

Celebrating its patients and supporting the community remained a paramount priority for the hospital. Beyond the health care it provided, Physicians Memorial Hospital sponsored a variety of events throughout the decade, including cancer walks, the Great Pumpkin Run, and more.

Physicians Memorial also began to offer several community services beyond the traditional scope of a hospital, including wellness programs and health screenings. It was all made possible because it was more financially stable, had more room to house its patients, and had a more advanced facility overall.

A New Name for Charles County’s Hospital

Like so many of its patients over the decades, the hospital had overcome countless obstacles through the power of perseverance.

And it wanted to commemorate how far it had come. 

Thus marked the first major name change in the history of the hospital. In February 1998, Physicians Memorial Hospital officially became Civista Medical Center.

Civista, meaning “civic with a vision”, appropriately encapsulated everything the hospital had become as an organization. Far beyond a traditional health care setting, it was now a powerful contributing force to the community as a whole. Civista had transitioned its focus to not only help make people well during times of need, but also to give them a brighter, healthier future to see ahead. 

With a new name and stronger vision, Civista launched into the 21st century.

Stay tuned to our blog for upcoming stories about our hospital over the decades. And be sure to follow us on Facebook — we’ll be sharing facts and photos from over the past eight decades throughout 2019.

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The Home Team: UM Charles Regional Medical Center’s Transition Nurse Navigators and Case Managers

Photo of case manager guiding patient through medical documentation

When Edward Prince was admitted to University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center in February, the 69-year-old had no idea the trouble he would face. The retired sheet metal worker from Mechanicsville, MD, had end-stage renal disease and needed to start dialysis to perform the work of his failing kidneys. That meant he required surgery to create a connection in his forearm for accessing his veins and arteries.

Unfortunately, he suffered a series of complications that sent him back to the hospital several times. He was readmitted for congestive heart failure when fluid collected in his body and again when he experienced problems in the opening to his veins, which made his dialysis treatments less effective. He ended up requiring four additional surgeries.

These problems might have been overwhelming for Prince if not for the hospital’s transition nurse navigators and case managers, whose job is to troubleshoot problems for patients. These nurses are tasked with making sure that patients’ needs are met once they leave the hospital — and trying to keep them from returning unnecessarily. 

Photo of nurse navigators at hospital

Before he was discharged, Prince says, a nurse went over his medications, highlighting the ones he should stop taking and those he needed to take in a different dosage. 

When he was back at home, “the transition nurse called me every other day for a week,” he said. “She asked me if I had weighed myself, whether I needed any of my medications, and when I was going to see my cardiologist and my nephrologist [kidney doctor]. And she answered every question I had. If she didn’t know the answer, she found out and called me back. It helped me relax and took a lot of the stress off me.” 

Now at home and doing well, Prince is on the transplant list and waiting for a donated kidney.

Guiding High-Risk Patients Home

The Transition Nurse Navigation and Case Management programs at UM Charles Regional work together to care for patients at discharge. 

“Case managers work setting up a discharge plan, but a lot of times patients need individualized navigation, resources and education on their condition,” Mary Hannah, RN, manager of population health, who oversees the Transition Nurse Navigation program, said. “That’s where nurse navigators come in. They meet the needs of the patients beyond the traditional care given in the hospital.” 

Photo of Janice Clements, RN, and Mary Hannah, RN

One of the program’s goals is to reduce avoidable hospital readmissions within 30 days of discharge. Because people with diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure, pneumonia and other high-risk conditions are particularly prone to readmission, nurse navigators target these patients for their services. 

Nurse navigators also help patients who have been recently readmitted and those who have had a lengthy hospital stay. 

“If they’re in the hospital longer than 10 days, we attempt to go and see them, because that is usually an indicator that they may be at risk for being readmitted within 30 days,” Transition Nurse Navigator Teri White, RN, said.

Educating patients about managing their conditions is a key part of the job. Nurse navigators provide one-on-one education at the bedside to help reinforce the discharge plan. 

“Knowledge is power,” White said. “The more knowledge that patients have on different things, the better they can take care of themselves.” 

She uses videos and printed materials to help patients learn how to manage their conditions in language based on their educational level. 

“You can make the biggest difference to the patient if you can meet them where they are,” she said.

The nurse navigators can also provide equipment for use at home. This includes blood pressure cuffs, glucometers for testing blood sugar, and scales for patients who have congestive heart failure and need to watch weight gain from fluid buildup. 

Once patients are home, the nurses make follow-up calls to be sure patients are scheduling and going to doctor appointments and to check for medication problems and other issues. 

“Patients don’t feel like they’re alone, which is really important,” White said.

Photo of Edward Prince

In the process, the nurses become expert problem-solvers. Transition nurse navigator Jennifer Murphy, RN, recalls a recent elderly patient with COPD and an abnormal heart rhythm. When Murphy called to follow up after discharge, the woman was worried because the pharmacy didn’t have her heart medication in stock. 

“By the time the pharmacy would have gotten the drug, she would have missed three doses,” Murphy said. “We had to intervene, contact the pharmacy and have them transfer the prescription to another pharmacy.” 

Nurse navigators also connect patients with community resources and troubleshoot problems like getting transportation to doctors’ offices. 

“When our transportation system was changing the way they did things, I had to talk to the agency to make sure patients’ needs were being met,” Marjanna Winafeld, RN, a transition nurse navigator, said.

Discharging Patients Safely

Case managers play an equally vital role in the care of patients at discharge. They screen every patient who is scheduled to leave the hospital. Case manager Lori Parsons, RN, says she starts an assessment with a patient by asking these questions: 

  • Where do you live? 
  • What are your living conditions? 
  • Do you have family support? 
  • What kind of equipment do you use at home?
  • Do you use oxygen at home? 
  • Do you have a doctor you can follow up with? 

“We meet with the patients and try to determine if there are going to be any home needs,” Case Manager Julie Hardesty, RN, said. “We can set up any services, whether it’s skilled nursing or just resources for the family. If we feel like a patient’s getting close to where they can’t live alone anymore, we try to help the family to start thinking in that direction.” 

Case managers also take care of home services such as IV antibiotics or physical therapy after surgery, and they can provide walkers and other equipment if needed. Through it all, they include patients in the planning and keep them focused on the goal. 

“It gives patients a chance to be more involved and have some autonomy in their health care,” Hardesty said.

Case managers also coordinate with insurance companies to get authorization for outpatient services and rehabilitation. And they ensure that a patient’s insurance covers prescribed medications; when they aren’t covered, case managers try to determine suitable substitutes. The department’s social workers play a role by identifying social issues, such as homelessness, that affect a patient’s health. 

“Our social workers and our case managers go the extra mile,” Hardesty said. “They make as many phone calls as needed to connect patients with services.” 

One case that stands out is a young patient with behavioral health problems who was frequently admitted to the hospital. She was also homeless, which made it harder to access needed medication.

“We worked really hard and were able to find permanent housing for her,” Hardesty said. “We don’t see her anymore, and I understand she’s doing really well.”

Case managers can overlap with the transition nurse team in providing care, says Janice Clements, RN, the hospital’s manager of Case Management. 

“Sometimes it’s hard to see a definite line in the sand, but we work so well together,” she said. “In fact, most of the caregivers who have become transition nurse navigators have worked as case managers first, so they understand what we do and the need for what we do and can carry the ball when we hand it to them. We are able to cover more bases with both teams in play.”

Care Transition Rounds

That coordination is on display at care transition rounds, a daily meeting where an interdisciplinary team discusses patients and their readiness for discharge. 

“It’s so important because of the information that is shared,” Clements said.

The hospital’s case managers and nurse navigators are joined by doctors, physical therapists, pharmacists, wound care specialists, and other care providers. 

“We all talk about what the patient may need, and the different disciplines provide input so we can come up with a collective plan that will help that patient be successful,” Hannah said. “It also offers a way to look at a challenging case with fresh eyes.” 

“It’s one of the things I love about this hospital,” Winafeld said. “When you used to come to the hospital, your community doctor knew you and was involved with your care. Now we don’t have that, but we know our patients and we’re able to speak up for them about things we need other people to know.”

The approach seems to be working at reducing readmissions. According to Hannah, readmission rates were almost 13 percent before the transitional care program expanded. For the past several years, the rate has been around 9 percent.

“It’s hard work, but most days it’s very rewarding,” Clements said. “We can make a big difference in patients’ lives.” 

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Health Literacy: What It Is and Why It Matters?

Photo of doctor meeting with patient

Your doctor has given you a new diagnosis or prescription. Now what? 

That’s where health literacy comes in.

“It’s the ability of an individual to understand basic health information well enough to provide adequate care for himself or herself,” says Cynthia Adams, RN, a diabetes educator with University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center

Health literacy is important for many reasons. If patients don’t have a good grasp of their medical issues or medications, they can do things that make the condition worse. 

“For example, a person with diabetes needs to be careful to eat the right amount of carbohydrates, or carbs for short, which are foods and drinks that turn to sugar when they are digested,” Adams says. “Eating or drinking too many or too few carbs can make blood sugar rise.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, health literacy affects people’s ability to:

  • Navigate the health care system, including filling out complex forms and locating providers and services
  • Share personal information, such as health history, with providers
  • Engage in self-care and chronic-disease management
  • Understand mathematical concepts such as probability and risk

Health literacy is the responsibility of the patient, certainly. But it’s also the responsibility of health care providers and public health systems. Many factors come into play, including culture, language barriers, and the communication skills of patients and medical professionals. Understanding these factors and seeking to overcome them is essential.

Citing a variety of recent studies, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine highlighted just a few of the negative outcomes associated with low health literacy:

  • People with low health literacy have a lower likelihood of getting flu shots, understanding medical labels and instructions, and a greater likelihood of taking medicines incorrectly compared with adults with higher health literacy 
  • Individuals with limited health literacy reported poorer health status and were less likely to use preventative care
  • Individuals with low levels of health literacy are more likely to be hospitalized and have bad disease outcomes 
  • Inpatient spending increases by approximately $993 for patients with limited health literacy 
  • After controlling for relevant covariates, lower health literacy scores were associated with high mortality rates within a Medicare managed care setting
  • The annual cost of low health literacy to the U.S. economy was $106 billion to $238 billion

As a patient, a parent or a caregiver, the most important thing you can do to improve your health literacy is to ask questions, Adams said.  

If the doctor gives you a new diagnosis, ask every question that comes to mind until you are sure you understand the basics. Request handouts and look into classes or support groups on the condition. And take advantage of the hospital’s patient learning channel, which provides web-based medical information.

When you pick up your medicine, have the pharmacist explain what it’s for and how often to take it, including any special instructions.

“So make sure you understand about your medical conditions and your medicines so that you can take good care of yourself,” Adams concludes.

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Where to Get a Free Flu Shot in Charles County, Maryland

Photo of person receiving flu shot in their upper arm

No health insurance? Insurance doesn’t cover the entire cost of the seasonal flu vaccine?

You don’t have to go without a flu shot just because you can’t afford one. The Charles County Department of Health understands how important the seasonal flu vaccine is to public health, which is why they are once again hosting a handful of free vaccination clinics and offering free flu shots during the 2019 flu season.

These clinics are 100 percent free and accept walk-ins during the times outlined below. These clinics will also be offering Flu Mist© (nasal spray) vaccinations this year.

Dates and Times of Free Flu Vaccine Clinics

Thursday, October 17 | 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Benjamin Stoddert Middle School
2040 St. Thomas Drive, Waldorf, MD 20602

Tuesday, October 29 | 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Piccowaxen Middle School
12834 Rock Point Road, Newburg, MD 20664

Thursday, November 7 | 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Smallwood Middle School
4990 Indian Head Highway, Indian Head, MD 20640

Tuesday, November 12 | 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Westlake High School
3300 Middletown Road, Waldorf, MD 20603

Free Flu Shots/Nasal Spray Offered Throughout Flu Season
If you can’t make it to any of the clinics noted above, the Charles County Department of Health offers free walk-in flu vaccinations from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. Their office is located at 4545 Crain Highway, White Plains, MD 20695.

For more information about any of the free clinics or walk-in vaccinations, please call (301) 609-6900.

Why the Flu Vaccine is Important

Don’t think you need to get a flu shot? Think again. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of six months receive the yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against widespread flu viruses.

In addition to protecting yourself from getting the flu, the seasonal flu vaccine also plays an important role in protecting those around you, especially members of the community who are most vulnerable, such as infants, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. And if that’s not reason enough, just think about how much time and money you can save by taking preventive measures rather than having to visit the doctor or getting medication after you become sick.

Simple Ways to Limit the Spread of the Flu

Getting the seasonal flu vaccine is a great first step in protecting yourself and those around you, but you should also follow these simple tips recommended by the CDC:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand rub
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible
  • Limit contact with others if you become sick
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with viruses or bacteria

To learn more about the seasonal flu and ways to protect yourself and your family, visit the CDC’s official website.

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Celebrating 80 Years: The Fifth Decade (1979-1989)

Celebrating 80 Years: The Fifth Decade

The hospital had expanded enough by 1979 to treat the needs of most patients. Some specialty needs for at-risk individuals, however, still required further equipment and care. So when those times came around, the hospital team was ready.

In 1979, the hospital team called in a helicopter to transport a premature baby for additional treatment. This was yet another example of the team at Physicians Memorial Hospital going the extra (aerial) mile to support the community that had supported it for decades.

While absolutely vital, these airlifts to bigger city hospitals were expensive for patients and could be cumbersome for all involved, so the board members set out to find a more permanent solution.

The team didn’t want to send needy patients to better hospitals. They wanted to build a better hospital. 

To reduce the need for helicopter travel, curb hospital crowding, and better serve the community as a whole, another new expansion was planned and built. 

This $5 million facility was dedicated on September 11, 1983, by Dr. James Parren Jarboe, former president and secretary-treasurer of the Charles County Medical Society and president of the Maryland chapter of the American College of Surgeons. It added 130 new beds to the facility, along with other state-of-the-art enhancements.

Another sign of the growing importance and reputation of health care in Charles County came in December 1987, when Ted Kennedy Jr. visited our beloved Charles County.

Stay tuned to our blog for upcoming stories about our hospital over the decades. And be sure to follow us on Facebook — we’ll be sharing facts and photos from over the past eight decades throughout 2019.

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5 Essential Facts You Need to Know About High Cholesterol

photo of a heart and stethoscope

How much do you know about high cholesterol? It’s an important topic and not just because it’s National Cholesterol Education Month in the United States but also because high cholesterol represents a significant health risk for millions of Americans.

With all the information that’s out there about cholesterol, it can be hard to know exactly where to begin. So here are five of the most essential things you should know about cholesterol right now:

If You Have High Cholesterol, You’re Not Alone

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high cholesterol is a relatively common condition in the United States, with 95 million adults over the age of 20 having total cholesterol levels above the recommended level. Moreover, the CDC estimates that about 43 million of those people are currently taking medicine to manage their cholesterol levels.

What this means is that high cholesterol is not something to be embarrassed about or avoid in conversation. In fact, with high cholesterol playing a key role in raising a person’s risk for heart disease (the leading cause of death in America), there’s never been a better time to talk about it more.

Even Children Can Have High Cholesterol

Unfortunately, high cholesterol is not a condition that’s confined to adults. In fact, the CDC estimates that 7 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 19 have total cholesterol levels above the recommended guideline.

Too Much “Bad” Cholesterol Can Put You at Risk for Stroke or Heart Disease 

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood that’s produced by your liver. It’s actually an essential part of maintaining a healthy body because it’s involved in everything from making hormones to digesting foods.

But did you know that, in most cases, your body already produces all of the cholesterol it needs? That means your lifestyle choices, health conditions, or family history can raise or lower your cholesterol, which can negatively impact your overall health. And when we talk about high cholesterol, we’re generally referring to having too much “bad” cholesterol in your blood. But what is “bad” cholesterol and how does it compare to “good” cholesterol? Read on.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is just one of the lipoproteins necessary for transporting fat molecules around your body. But too much LDL in your body can be bad for your health, which is why it’s most often considered “bad” cholesterol. And for “good” cholesterol? That’s usually considered your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) because it’s responsible for absorbing cholesterol and returning it to the liver to be removed from your body.

Too much LDL in your blood can lead to what is known as plaque, a buildup of cholesterol in your blood vessels that can ultimately make them more narrow over time. This can block your blood flow and put you at risk for having a stroke or heart attack.

Certain Conditions and Factors Can Raise Your Level of Risk

The most important thing to remember about high cholesterol is that there are a variety of risk factors that you can control and there are some that you can’t control.

Here are just some of the risk factors associated with high cholesterol:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Family history of high cholesterol
  • Certain inherited medical conditions
  • Age

Things like age and family history are obviously out of your control, but things like smoking or not being physically active are definitely up to you. Fortunately, limiting many of the risk factors associated with high cholesterol will mean that you’re limiting risk factors for a wide variety of other conditions as well.

There Usually Aren’t Any Symptoms

Because high cholesterol doesn’t usually come with any noticeable symptoms or warning signs, it’s important to talk with your doctor about getting your cholesterol levels checked.

To get your levels checked, your primary care provider can administer a blood test that will check your levels of LDL, HDL, and triglycerides (a type of fat found in your blood). Below are general guidelines from the CDC about where your cholesterol levels should be:

  • LDL – Less than 100 mg/dL
  • HDG – Greater than or equal to 60 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides – Less than 150 mg/dL

Remember, these are just basic guidelines. Your primary care doctor can help you analyze your results to determine if you have high cholesterol and if you need to take any action to lower your cholesterol.

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