It’s not what you might think, but high cholesterol levels absolutely do run in families. This tendency is neither due to genetic make-up or heredity, but to choices made within a family unit. That’s right: when high cholesterol runs in the family it’s due almost exclusively to lifestyle options, generally made by the parents and passed on through habit to their offspring. And that’s how high cholesterol runs in the family.
Look around. You’ll see family “trends” that may be based purely in bloodlines, such as eye color or body type, and others that live within the framework of choices, such as active families versus couch-potato families. Once a lifestyle is established within a family unit it is apt to be carried on, generation after generation, without question because “it’s just they way we do things.” Somebody has got to break the mold in the case of high cholesterol running though a family.
Of course, there are exceptions, and it is not impossible for high cholesterol to run genetically in families, but the likelihood is more pronounced in a family that has a history of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure. How can we prove that high cholesterol runs in families via lifestyle choices? Because even in families where the children are adopted the proclivity to high cholesterol levels as a direct result of lifestyle options exists.
What Can a Family do to Avoid High Cholesterol?
What is nifty about having a whole family that needs to lower its cholesterol levels is that the individuals can support one another in their efforts. It’s a buddy system and it works! Here are some steps that your family can take as a unit and as individuals within the group to get high cholesterol levels down:
- Book an appointment with your family doctor or the local blood clinic and have your lipoprotein tested after fasting briefly. When the results come in, compare and record them. Maybe post them on your fridge. Then get to work lowering cholesterol levels.
- Set up a rewards system. Your doctor will likely want a second blood test done within 3 to 6 months of finding high cholesterol levels. Ensure there is a reward for the family member who has had the biggest drop in cholesterol levels.
- When the results of the follow-up blood test are available, post those next to the first set and keep working toward the collective goal, using a rewards system as incentive.
- In order to get the cholesterol levels down, adjustments to diet and exercise regimen are necessary. And if anyone in the family smokes, it’s time to quit! If one or more family members decide (sensibly!) to quit smoking, the rest of the group must be supportive, especially when the nicotine cravings make the former smokers a little cranky.
- To facilitate the required changes in a family’s diet, there are numerous tasks that can be assigned individually so that everyone shares responsibility: research on what foods are helpful in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol; cleaning out the cupboards and refrigerator to get rid of unsuitable foods; meal planning; figuring out what snacks and treats everyone will enjoy and that will be kind to cholesterol levels; and grocery shopping for the right foods.
- Given that we know positive adjustments in diet will help, but that exercise is also integral to lowering cholesterol levels, the family can make this a project, too. Hold a meeting to find out what type of activities each person enjoys, and then figure out what the entire family might like to do as a unit. For example, the kids might like to play soccer, and the parents might enjoy walking or cycling. Then have everyone walk or bike to the soccer field. The family that plays together…
And here’s a fun tip: Forget about the commercial elements of Valentine’s Day! Instead, make it Family Heart Health Day and celebrate with a long walk, a family hike, or a mixed doubles badminton or tennis game.
A family comes together to make important decisions, normally guided by the parents. High cholesterol levels are no exception. It’s a decision, a lifestyle choice that an entire family can make to ensure they are not robbed of one precious member due to untimely death or long-term incapacity due to heart attack or stroke. There is indeed a higher risk when high cholesterol runs in the family, but the mutual support and shared objectives of a family unit can help make lowering cholesterol levels a great group project with healthy results.