TRICARE Keeps Cholesterol in Check
By: Kristin Shives
TRICARE Management Activity
Everyone has heard the saying, “too much of a good thing can be bad.” The saying holds true for cholesterol levels. The body produces all the cholesterol it needs, but depending on a person’s diet, cholesterol can soar to dangerous levels putting them at risk for heart disease.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance produced by the body, that is also found in many foods. Too much cholesterol in the blood can contribute to the buildup of cholesterol on the walls of arteries. This buildup of fatty deposits and other items known as plaque can reduce the flexibility of arteries. Over time, plaque causes them to become narrow and blood flow to and from the heart to decrease and at times become blocked, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend having a blood test called a “lipoprotein profile,” also known as a lipid panel, to check cholesterol levels. TRICARE covers a lipid panel once every five years beginning at the age of 18. A lipoprotein profile is a blood test measuring total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol or LDL), high-density lipoprotein (“good” cholesterol or HDL) and triglycerides, another form of fat in the body. This information can determine whether or not cholesterol is in the right range and what actions are needed.
Treatment for high cholesterol begins with lifestyle changes, but is often treated by combining lifestyle changes and prescription medications from a health care provider. According to CDC, there are several types of drugs available to lower cholesterol including statins, bile acid sequestrants, nicotinic acid, fibric acids and cholesterol absorption inhibitors. Treatment goals include lowering the LDL level, raising the HDL level and reducing the risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack.
Several factors affect cholesterol levels including diet, weight, physical activity, age, gender and heredity. CDC lists several ways people can maintain lower cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes including:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Don’t smoke
- Treat high cholesterol
Beneficiaries should pay attention to nutritional information located on food labels including cholesterol and saturated fats content in foods and strive to keep their cholesterol levels in the healthy range. To learn more on TRICARE cholesterol testing coverage go to www.tricare.mil/coveredservices. More facts and resources about lowering cholesterol can be found at www.cdc.gov/cholesterol.