Having high cholesterol can lead to serious health complications, including heart attack and stroke. Although genetics controls part of your cholesterol condition, there are also lifestyle changes you can make to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level.
Cholesterol is a type of lipid in the blood. "High cholesterol" means there is an abnormally high level of cholesterol in the blood. Staying active and maintaining a healthy weight are two great ways to avoid high cholesterol.
There are different types of cholesterol in your blood.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) causes buildup of cholesterol and other fats in the blood vessels. LDL is known as "bad cholesterol" because high levels can cause disease in the arteries and heart disease.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL) can remove cholesterol and other fats from the blood. HDL is known as "good cholesterol" because it might protect against heart disease.
Some causes of high cholesterol include: Genetics, high-fat diet, being overweight, and sedentary lifestyle.
These risk factors might increase your chance of high cholesterol:
• Age - cholesterol levels tend to rise with age
• Gender - males, females after menopause
• Family members with high cholesterol
• High-fat diet
• Obesity, overweight
• Leading a sedentary lifestyle
What does high cholesterol do to the body? It is rare for high cholesterol to cause symptoms. But high cholesterol can increase your risk of atherosclerosis. This is a dangerous hardening of the arteries.
Atherosclerosis can block the flow of blood, and in some cases, a blocked or slowed blood flow may cause angina, heart attack, stroke, peripheral artery disease, or other serious complications.
Your doctor will ask about factors that might increase your risk of heart disease or stroke. A physical exam will be done. A blood test will also be done. Blood will be sent to a lab to measure lipid levels in your blood, including total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
Your doctor might also conduct additional tests to look for other conditions that can be associated with high cholesterol levels.
Treatment is aimed at decreasing cholesterol levels. Your doctor will also make recommendations to help you manage other risk factors for heart disease and stroke. This would include nutritional and lifestyle changes, and possibly cholesterol-lowering medication.
Talk to your doctor to learn more about cholesterol and what you can do to control your own cholesterol levels.
Dr. Dale Daly is a cardiologist with Memorial Health University Physicians Heart Care Bluffton. To learn more, visit MemorialHealthDoctors.com.