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Encinitas, CA

High Cholesterol in La Jolla, CA

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What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance your liver makes to protect nerves and to make cell tissue and certain hormones. Your body also gets cholesterol from the food you consume. 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 due to a high LDL level, you may be at greater risk of heart disease or stroke. But, if your total cholesterol level is high just because of a high HDL level, you're most likely not at greater risk.

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

Altering your lifestyle (diet and exercise) can improve your cholesterol levels, lower LDL and triglycerides, and increase 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 reduces your risk for heart disease.
  • Triglycerides-- less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) is best.

Symptoms of high cholesterol

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

If you have high cholesterol, your body might store the extra cholesterol in your arteries. These are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. A buildup of cholesterol in your arteries is called plaque. With 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, resulting in formation of a blood clot that blocks the flow of blood.

A blocked artery to the heart can trigger a heart attack. A blocked artery to your brain can lead to a stroke.

Many people don't discover that they have high cholesterol until they experience one of these life-threatening events. Some individuals find out with routine check-ups that include blood tests.

What causes high cholesterol?

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

Being overweight and inactive also leads to high cholesterol. If you are overweight, you most likely 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 affects your cholesterol level. Research has shown that high cholesterol has a tendency to run in families. If you have an immediate family member who has it, you can have it, also.

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

How is high cholesterol diagnosed?

You can not know if you have high cholesterol without having it checked. A basic blood test will show 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 that have risk factors for heart disease should have their cholesterol checked. Teenagers may need to be checked if they are taking certain medications 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 include:

  • Cigarette 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 need to make some lifestyle changes. If you smoke, quit. Exercise regularly. If you're overweight, losing just five to 10 pounds can improve your cholesterol levels and your risk for heart disease. Be sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish.

Depending on your risk factors, your doctor might prescribe medicine and lifestyle adjustments.

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

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