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Encinitas, CA

High Cholesterol in Carlsbad, CA

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What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance your liver produces to protect nerves and to make cell tissue and certain hormones. Your body also gets cholesterol from the food you eat. This includes eggs, meats, and dairy. Too much bad cholesterol (LDL) can be bad for your health. There is "good" (HDL) cholesterol and "bad" (LDL) cholesterol

What is the difference between "good" cholesterol and "bad" cholesterol?

Good cholesterol is known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL). It gets rid of cholesterol from the bloodstream. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the "bad" cholesterol.

If your total cholesterol level is high because of a high LDL level, you might be at higher risk of heart disease or stroke. However, if your total cholesterol level is high just because of a high HDL level, you're probably not at greater risk.

Triglycerides are another type of fat in your blood. When you eat more calories than your body can use, it converts the additional calories into triglycerides.

Changing your lifestyle (diet and exercise) can improve your cholesterol levels, decrease LDL and triglycerides, and raise HDL.

Your ideal cholesterol level will depend on your risk for heart disease.

  • Total cholesterol level-- less than 200 is best, but it depends on your HDL and LDL levels.
  • LDL cholesterol levels-- less than 130 is best, but this depends on your risk for heart disease.
  • HDL cholesterol levels-- 60 or higher reduce your risk for heart disease.
  • Triglycerides-- less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) is best.

Symptoms of high cholesterol

Oftentimes, there are no specific symptoms of high cholesterol. You can have high cholesterol and not know it.

If you have high cholesterol, your body may store the extra cholesterol in your arteries. These are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. An accumulation of cholesterol in your arteries is known as plaque. Over time, plaque can become hard and make your arteries narrow. Large deposits of plaque can completely block an artery. Cholesterol plaques can also break apart, leading to formation of a blood clot that blocks the flow of blood.

A blocked artery to the heart can result in a heart attack. A blocked artery to your brain can trigger a stroke. A lot of people don't know that they have high cholesterol until they experience one of these life-threatening events. Some people find out with regular check-ups that include blood tests.

What causes high cholesterol?

Your liver produces cholesterol, but you also get cholesterol from food. Consuming too many foods that are high in fat can raise your cholesterol level.

Being overweight and sedentary also leads to high cholesterol. If you are overweight, you probably have a higher level of triglycerides. If you do not exercise and aren't active in general, it can lower your HDL (good cholesterol).

Your family history also impacts your cholesterol level. Research has shown that high cholesterol tends to run in families. If you have an immediate family member who has it, you could have it, as well.

Smoking also causes high cholesterol. It lowers your HDL (good cholesterol).

How is high cholesterol diagnosed?

You can not tell if you have high cholesterol without having it checked. A basic blood test will reveal your cholesterol level.

Men 35 years of age and older and women 45 years of age and older should have their cholesterol checked. Men and women 20 years old and older who have risk factors for heart disease should have their cholesterol checked. Teenagers may need to be checked if they are taking certain medicines or have a strong family history of high cholesterol. Ask your doctor how frequently you should have your cholesterol checked.

Risk factors for heart disease consist of:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Older age
  • Having an immediate family member (parent or sibling) that has had heart disease
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of exercise

High cholesterol treatment

If you have high cholesterol, you might have to make some lifestyle adjustments. If you smoke, quit. Exercise on a regular basis. If you're overweight, losing just 5 to 10 pounds can improve your cholesterol levels and your risk for heart disease. Be sure to consume lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish.

Depending on your risk factors, your physician might prescribe medication and lifestyle changes.

For further information about Dr. Stengler’s practice and his clinic in Carlsbad, California, please visit our website at or give us a call at (760) 274-2377

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