High cholesterol is a common condition that needs to be monitored by your doctor and treated if necessary. Here are 7 things you need to know about high cholesterol.
1. What is Cholesterol?
High cholesterol is a common condition found during routine blood work. Cholesterol is a white, waxy, fat like protein, your body needs in small amounts. Cholesterol is needed to form the cell wall of your body’s cells. But too much cholesterol causes plaques or deposits in the arteries that lead to blockages. These blockages cause heart attacks and strokes.
2. What Causes High Cholesterol?
Eating foods high in animal fat or saturated fat can cause cholesterol to be elevated. Being overweight and not getting enough exercise also contributes to having elevated cholesterol. Also having a family history of high cholesterol increases your risk. It is recommended to have your cholesterol checked every 4-6 years after the age of 20.
3. What is LDL and HDL?
The bad or LDL cholesterol is the type of cholesterol that causes heart disease. This number should be less than 100. Good cholesterol or HDL cholesterol helps protect against heart disease. The level of HDL cholesterol should be greater than 60. The total cholesterol that is the combined of LDL and HDL cholesterol should be less than 200. If you have high LDL cholesterol, are male over 45, are female over 55, have a family history of heart disease, smoke cigarettes, have high blood pressure or have low HDL cholesterol you have an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.
4. What are the Symptoms of High Cholesterol?
There are no symptoms from high LDL or low HDL cholesterol until a blockage occurs. Then you could have chest pain, pain in the legs or stroke symptoms like weakness numbness, vision loss, slurred speech, etc.
5. How Can You Lower High Cholesterol Levels?
To lower cholesterol you can eat healthy by increasing fruits and vegetables, eating fish and chicken, and low-fat foods. Daily exercise is important to increase the HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol. Diet and exercise lower cholesterol by approximately 10%. The Mediterranean diet meets all the criteria to help lower cholesterol and is heart healthy. Medications may be required in order to lower LDL cholesterol. The group of medications called statins is the most commonly used to lower LDL cholesterol. Zetia is also used to lower cholesterol. There is a new class of medication called PCSK9 inhibitors that are powerful cholesterol lowering agents but have to be given by injection. These are used by people that have already had a heart attack or can’t take statins.
6. Is High Cholesterol a Genetic Condition?
There is a familial type of hypercholesterolemia that is inherited that is associated with an extremely high rate of heart disease. This form often starts in childhood and requires a strict diet and often prescription medication. It occurs in 1 out of every 500 people. It can be either both elevated triglycerides and cholesterol or just cholesterol elevation alone.
7. What is the Diagnosis and Treatment for High Cholesterol?
So if you have had an elevated cholesterol it is important to make changes in your diet and exercise and follow up closely with your doctor. If treatment is recommended it is important to continue this long term and continue to work on healthy diet and regular exercise. Your doctor may recommend other screening studies to rule out blockages in blood vessels if you have other symptoms and risk factors.
Health and Happiness!
-Dr. Victoria Smithers, family physician, is an inspirational speaker and blogger on stress management and many wellness topics. She is booking now for medical and Christian conferences, keynotes, retreats, and workshops. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to check availability and to get a price quote for your next meeting.