About High Blood Cholesterol
Cholesterol and Your Body
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and many foods. Your body needs it to work properly and makes all that you need. Too much cholesterol can accumulate depending on the kind of foods you eat and the rate at which your body breaks it down.
Extra cholesterol can build up in your arteries. Over time, cholesterol deposits, called plaque, can narrow your arteries and allow less blood to pass through.
When plaque totally blocks an artery carrying blood to the heart, a heart attack occurs. It also can happen when a deposit ruptures and causes a clot in a coronary artery. Chest pain, also called angina, is caused by plaque partially blocking a coronary artery, reducing blood flow to the heart.
LDL and HDL
"Bad" and "Good" Cholesterol
Particles called lipoproteins carry cholesterol in the blood. There are two kinds of lipoproteins you need to know about: LDL and HDL.
- Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol make up the majority of the body's cholesterol. LDL is known as "bad" cholesterol because having high levels can lead to a buildup in the arteries and result in heart disease.
- High-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver, which flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL, or "good" cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Lowering Your Cholesterol Levels
You can take several steps to maintain a normal cholesterol level.
- Get a blood test.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise regularly.
- Don't smoke.
- Treat high cholesterol.
If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe medications in addition to lifestyle changes. Talk with your doctor about how to reduce your risk for heart disease.
Sign and Symptoms
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body needs. But, when you have too much in your blood, it can build up on the walls of your arteries. This can lead to heart disease and stroke.
There are generally no symptoms of high cholesterol. Many people have never had their cholesterol checked, so they don't know they're at risk. A simple blood test can tell you your level. The good news is that there are steps you can take to prevent high cholesterol—or to reduce your levels if they are high.
Some health conditions, as well as lifestyle and genetic factors, can put people at a higher risk for developing high cholesterol. However, everyone can take steps to lower their risk of high cholesterol.
Because cholesterol tends to rise as people get older, everyone's risk for high cholesterol increases with age. Women's LDL ("bad" cholesterol) levels rise more quickly than do men's. Until around age 55, women tend to have lower LDL levels than men do.1 At any age, men tend to have lower HDL ("good" cholesterol) levels than women do.
Having diabetes can also make you more likely to develop high cholesterol. Diabetes affects the body's use of a hormone called insulin. This hormone tells the body to remove sugar from the blood. With diabetes, the body either doesn't make enough insulin, can't use its own insulin as well as it should, or both. This causes sugars to build up in the blood.
While there are many things you can do to keep your cholesterol normal, some unhealthy behaviors can contribute to your risk for high cholesterol, which in turn raises your risk of heart disease.
Certain foods raise your cholesterol levels. These foods tend to contain saturated fats, trans fatty acids (trans fats), dietary cholesterol, or triglycerides.
Being overweight can raise LDL, lower HDL, and raise total cholesterol levels.
Not getting enough exercise can make you gain weight, which can lead to increased cholesterol levels.
What You Can Do
High cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease. People at any age can take steps to keep cholesterol levels normal.
Get a Blood Test
High cholesterol usually has no signs or symptoms. Only a doctor's check will reveal it.
Your doctor can do a simple blood test to check your cholesterol levels. The test is called a lipoprotein profile. It measures several kinds of cholesterol as well as triglycerides. Some doctors do a simpler blood test that just checks total and HDL cholesterol.
Clinically it is recommended that healthy adults get their cholesterol levels checked every five years.
Desirable Cholesterol Levels
Less than 200 mg/dL
LDL ("bad" cholesterol)
Less than 100 mg/dL*
HDL ("good" cholesterol)
40 mg/dL or higher
Less than 150 mg/dL
* Note: Optimal level.
Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet can help keep blood cholesterol levels down. Avoid saturated fat (fat that becomes hardened in room temperature), trans fats, and dietary cholesterol, which tend to raise cholesterol levels. Other types of fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, can actually lower blood cholesterol levels. Eating fiber can also help lower cholesterol.
For some people, eating too many carbohydrates can lower HDL (good cholesterol) and raise triglycerides. Drinking alcohol can also raise triglycerides. Too much alcohol can cause high blood pressure, which increases the risk for heart disease and stroke.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight or obese can raise your bad cholesterol levels. Losing weight can help lower your cholesterol.
To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate a number called the body mass index (BMI). Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure a person's excess body fat.
If you know your weight and height, you can compute your BMI using the below formular that is very simple:
BMI = weight / 2 x Height in Meters)
Physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol. The clinically it is recommended that adults engage in moderate-intensity exercise for 2 hours and 30 minutes every week.
Smoking injures blood vessels and speeds up the hardening of the arteries. Smoking greatly increases a person's risk for heart disease and stroke.
If you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. Your doctor can suggest programs to help you stop smoking.
Breathing secondhand smoke increases a person's risk for a heart attack and other heart conditions.1
Treat High Cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe medications in addition to lifestyle changes. Controlling LDL cholesterol is the primary focus of treatment.
Your treatment plan will depend on your current LDL level and risk for heart disease and stroke. Your risk for heart disease and stroke depends on other risk factors including high blood pressure, smoking status, age, HDL level, and family history of early heart disease. In addition, people with existing cardiovascular disease or diabetes are at high risk.
You can estimate your risk for heart disease by visiting your Personal Family Doctor or Visit Kalson Medical Services for Evaluation.
All drugs may have side effects, so talk with your doctor on a regular basis. Once your cholesterol levels have improved, your doctor will want to monitor them.
Lifestyle changes are just as important as taking medicines.
High cholesterol can run in families. People who have an inherited genetic condition, called familial hypercholesterolemia, have very high LDL cholesterol levels beginning at a young age.
For more information contact:
Visit your personal Doctor if you have one.
Kalson Medical Services