High cholesterol doesn’t produce symptoms but indicates current or risk of heart disease, a leading cause of death in the United States. Too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries in addition to their narrowing, which can result in a lack of blood flow to the heart (heart attack) or brain (stroke).
Knowing blood cholesterol levels empowers the patient and provider to take measures to decrease the risk of serious complications.
There are no signs or symptoms of this condition, so routine physical exams at least once per year are important.
HDL is considered good cholesterol, primarily because it has the ability to remove bad cholesterol from the blood and prevent it from depositing in the arteries. LDL is considered bad cholesterol because it can build up in the form of plaque, narrowing arteries and causing a heart attack or stroke.
Blood cholesterol tests measure both; patients with an LDL level over 190 or an HDL level under 40 can indicate risk.
Red meat, egg yolks, certain kinds of fish, and whole milk dairy products can increase bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol.
The great news about high cholesterol is that patients have the power to change their numbers through lifestyle changes. The following might help:
It’s important to note that packaging indicating low cholesterol doesn't mean the food is approved for patients with elevated cholesterol levels. Instead, both cholesterol and saturated fat should be reviewed before consumption. In some cases, medication (most often a statin) is also prescribed to lower cholesterol.
For healthy patients, cholesterol should be checked every five years beginning around age 20. In some cases, genetic conditions or susceptibility may prompt cholesterol testing in children, and patients who are diagnosed with high cholesterol may be tested more often as a part of their treatment plan.