Guarding Your Heart: Recognizing and Addressing
The most dangerous aspect of high cholesterol, or hyperlipidemia, is the fact that there are no symptoms. Often, a person won’t realize their cholesterol is high until they already have complications from it.
That’s one reason why of the nearly 40% of U.S. adults who have high cholesterol, only slightly more than half are taking the medication they need to manage it.
And that’s extremely concerning, since elevated cholesterol levels can quietly contribute to heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular complications.
Read on to discover what you need to know about high cholesterol, so you don’t face an unexpected health crisis.
What is High Cholesterol and What Causes It?
Cholesterol–a type of waxy lipid produced by your liver–is found in your blood. It’s essential for things like hormone production, cell membranes, and for the digestion of fatty foods.
While fats and cholesterol play crucial roles in your body’s functions, an excess of these can pose health risks. High cholesterol levels occur either when your body produces too much cholesterol, or you consume too much in your diet.
There are three main types of cholesterol:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): “Bad” cholesterol that carries cholesterol from your liver to the rest of your body.
- Very Low-Density Lipoprotein (VLDL): “Bad” cholesterol that carries triglycerides (a type of dangerous fat) in your blood.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL): “Good” cholesterol that carries cholesterol from your body back to your liver, where your body breaks it down and removes it.
Although high cholesterol has many contributing factors–like genetics, medical conditions, and medications–lifestyle choices are just as important. A diet high in saturated fats, an inactive lifestyle, consuming too much alcohol, and smoking can all cause high cholesterol.
What’s So Bad About High Cholesterol?
Too much LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood can clog your vessels with a “plaque” that builds up in vessels. This process, called atherosclerosis, leads to narrowing and hardening of the arteries.
In time, this plaque buildup can cause heart disease. Plus, if a piece of plaque breaks off, which is not uncommon, the resulting blockage can lead to life-threatening incidents like heart attacks or strokes.
Can I Prevent High Cholesterol (and What Should I Do if I Have It)?
Because we know the specific factors that contribute to high cholesterol, there are several steps you can take to help prevent it.
Here are some measures you can adopt:
- Follow a healthy diet that limits saturated fats, like the DASH Diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Limit alcohol intake.
- Quit smoking.
- Find ways to manage stress.
If you do find that your cholesterol is high, continue with the previously-mentioned healthy measures, get regular health screenings, and faithfully take any medications your doctor prescribes.
With the right interventions, including lifestyle changes and medications, it’s entirely possible to manage and even significantly reduce your cholesterol levels.
How Hoag Helps with High Cholesterol
As you’ve seen, high cholesterol’s sneakiness can lead to serious health problems before a person even knows they have it.
Regular health screenings with a simple lipid panel test–a blood test that measures the levels of total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides in your blood–are the answer. These tests are typically covered by insurance when prescribed by a doctor, but you can check with your provider to confirm.
Here are two ways Hoag can help:
1) Schedule an appointment for a cholesterol screening with a Hoag doctor today at any of our convenient locations in Orange County.
Don’t wait until you have complications to find out your cholesterol is high. Be proactive and schedule an appointment at Hoag today.