(StatePoint) Susan Brooker thought she was doing all she could to take care of herself. The 60-year-old exercised, ate healthy, and stayed active. As an avid softball player, she spent months training to play in the August 2009 National Senior Games. In preparation for the competition, Susan went to see her doctor for a routine checkup. After a thorough physical and blood tests, Susan was diagnosed with high cholesterol.
“I was really surprised. I had family members who suffered from high cholesterol, so I knew a little about the disease. My physician assistant, Ronnie Diem, PA-C, took the time to explain that because of my elevated cholesterol, I developed atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque in the arteries.”
“Atherosclerosis can develop silently over many years and may have no symptoms,” Diem said. “Elevated cholesterol increases your chances of developing buildup of plaque in the arteries. Patients like Susan may be unaware of the problem because they can’t see or feel the disease.”
In addition to Susan’s elevated cholesterol, she had other risk factors, such as her age and family history. “My total cholesterol levels were too high — over 200 mg/dL. And since my grandfather had a history of heart disease, Ronnie explained that I was considered to be in the ‘at-risk’ category,” Susan said.
Ronnie told Susan she was going to have to make some lifestyle adjustments if she was going to be in peak condition for competing in the Senior Games. “I wanted to get Susan eating right and exercising differently,” he said. “In addition to these lifestyle changes, based on her elevated cholesterol and additional risks, I felt a cholesterol-lowering statin medication was necessary.”
Since Susan was diagnosed, her total cholesterol has dropped, and her LDL and HDL levels are where they should be. “My experience has taught me that even if you think you’re healthy, you should exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, and get your cholesterol checked,” she said.