Your body needs cholesterol to help your cells function correctly. But too much cholesterol can increase your risk for serious health problems like heart disease which could lead to a heart attack, or disease of the blood vessels in the brain causing a stroke.
Heart Attack & High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a component of the lipids in your blood. Lipids also includes fats and oils (triglycerides). When there is too much cholesterol or fats in your body, the waxy fatty material clumps together along the lining of the blood vessels that carry blood throughout your body. This can make it difficult for blood to flow through your body and can make it hard for your heart to get enough oxygen.
If enough of it sticks in an area, it can completely block arteries and cut off blood flow to important organs like the heart. This is what causes a heart attack.
What Causes High Cholesterol?
In some cases, you may have a family history. That can significantly raise your risk of developing the problem. If you have a parent or sibling who developed heart disease before the age of 55, you may be at higher risk too.
Many cases of high cholesterol come from lifestyle choices that can be changed. This means you have the power to lower your cholesterol and reduce your chances of developing complications.
Here are some things that increase your risk for heart disease even further when high cholesterol is present:
- High fat diet
- High blood pressure
- Lack of exercise
Getting Your Levels Tested
The test to check your cholesterol levels is a blood test called a lipid panel or lipid profile. You should not eat or drink anything (except water) 10-12 hours before your test for the most accurate results. A lipid panel looks at the different components of lipids in your blood including:
- Total cholesterol
- HDL levels
- LDL levels
Your total number should be below 200. HDL is considered “good” cholesterol. LDL is considered “bad” cholesterol. Triglycerides are fats. Each have their own target values and expected ranges. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about each of these based on your risk factors for heart disease.
High Cholesterol Treatment
High cholesterol is often treated with medication. There are several drugs available that can treat your total cholesterol or one of its components. But you should also follow a low-fat diet, exercise regularly, and try to lose weight if needed. Always remember to ask your medical provider if it is okay to start a new diet or exercise plan.
Once you develop a treatment action plan, you should have your HDL and LDL levels checked regularly. Follow your medical provider’s recommendations on how often you should have it checked.
Are you at risk for high cholesterol? Find out. Call Ouilikon Medical Associates at (717) 484-514 or online to set up an appointment today. Ouilikon Medical Associates is primary care physician office in Lancaster County, PA serving the communities in Ephrata, Adamstown, Denver, Reading and the surrounding areas that provides a full range of medical care for adults.