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 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 removes 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 greater risk of heart disease or stroke. However, if your total cholesterol level is high only because of a high HDL level, you're most likely not at higher risk.
Triglycerides are another kind 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 increase HDL.
Your ideal cholesterol level will depend on your risk for heart disease.
Symptoms of high cholesterol
Commonly, there are no specific symptoms of high cholesterol. You can 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. An accumulation 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 lead to a heart attack. A blocked artery to your brain can lead to a stroke.
A lot of people don't know that they have high cholesterol until they experience one of these deadly events. Some individuals find out with regular check-ups that include blood tests.
What causes high cholesterol?
Your liver makes 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 inactive also causes 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 has a tendency to run in families. If you have an immediate family member that has it, you can have it, too.
Smoking also causes high cholesterol. It lowers your HDL (good cholesterol).
How is high cholesterol diagnosed?
You can't know if you have high cholesterol without having it checked. A simple 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 who have risk factors for heart disease should have their cholesterol checked. Teens may need to be checked if they are taking certain medications or have a strong family history of high cholesterol. Ask your physician how frequently you should have your cholesterol checked.
Risk factors for heart disease consist of:
High cholesterol treatment
If you have high cholesterol, you might need to make some lifestyle adjustments. If you smoke, quit. Exercise regularly. If you're overweight, losing just 5 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 physician may prescribe medicine and lifestyle changes.
For further information about Dr. Stengler’s practice and his clinic in La Mesa, California, please visit our website at MarkStengler.com or give us a call at (760) 274-2377.