Definition

What is high cholesterol?

High cholesterol is a condition occurs when the level of cholesterol in your body is higher than normal. Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the fats in your blood. Cholesterol plays a role in building healthy cells but having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.

When you have high cholesterol, you may build up fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Finally, these deposits make it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Your heart may not get as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs, which increases the risk of a heart attack. Decreased blood flow to your brain can cause a stroke.

High cholesterol can be inherited, but it is commonly the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, and thus preventable and treatable. A healthy diet, regular exercise and sometimes medication can go a long way toward reducing high cholesterol.

How common is high cholesterol?

High cholesterol is estimated to cause 2.6 million deaths (4.5% of total) and 29.7 million disability adjusted life years (DALYS), or 2.0% of total DALYS.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of high cholesterol?

It is noticed that high cholesterol has no signs or symptoms. Therefore, a blood test is the only way to detect high cholesterol.

When should I see my doctor?

Ask your doctor if you should have a cholesterol test. Recommendations for the age of first screening vary. Retesting is usually performed every five years.

If your test results aren’t within desirable ranges, your doctor may recommend more frequent measurements. Your doctor may also suggest you have more frequent tests if you have a family history of high cholesterol, heart disease or other risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes or high blood pressure.

Causes

What causes high cholesterol?

In your body, if cholesterol wants to be carried through your blood, it must be attached to proteins, this combination of proteins and cholesterol is called a lipoprotein. Based on what type of cholesterol the lipoprotein carries, the cholesterol may have different types. They are:

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)

LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol transports cholesterol particles throughout your body. LDL cholesterol builds up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL)

HDL, or “good,” cholesterol picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to your liver.

Factors within your control, such as inactivity, obesity and an unhealthy diet, will contribute to high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol. Besides that, factors beyond your control may play a role, too. For example, your genetic makeup may keep cells from removing LDL cholesterol from your blood efficiently or cause your liver to produce too much cholesterol.

 

Risk factors

What increases my risk for high cholesterol?

You may have higher risks for this condition if you are experiencing these following conditions:

  • Poor dietEating saturated fat, found in animal products, and trans fats, found in some commercially baked cookies and crackers, can raise your cholesterol level. Foods that are high in cholesterol, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, will also increase your total cholesterol.
  • ObesityHaving a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater puts you at risk of high cholesterol.
  • Large waist circumferenceYour risk increases if you are a man with a waist circumference of at least 40 inches (102 centimeters) or a woman with a waist circumference of at least 35 inches (89 centimeters).
  • Lack of exerciseExercise helps boost your body’s HDL, or “good,” cholesterol while increasing the size of the particles that make up your LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, which makes it less harmful.
  • SmokingCigarette smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, making them likely to accumulate fatty deposits. Smoking may also lower your level of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol.
  • DiabetesHigh blood sugar contributes to higher LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. High blood sugar also damages the lining of your arteries.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is high cholesterol diagnosed?

If you wonder whether you experience high cholesterol, your doctor will order some blood test in order to detect this condition.

A blood test to check cholesterol levels, called a lipid panel or lipid profile, typically reports:

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL cholesterol
  • HDL cholesterol
  • Triglycerides — a type of fat in the blood

For the most accurate measurements, don’t eat or drink anything (other than water) for nine to 12 hours before the blood sample is taken.  

The normal standard of cholesterol level may be different from one lab to another. Please asking your doctor for more information about your result.

How is high cholesterol treated?

Lifestyle changes such as exercising and eating a healthy diet are the first line of defense against high cholesterol. But, if you’ve made these important lifestyle changes and your cholesterol levels remain high, your doctor may recommend medication.

Depending on various factors, including your individual risk factors, your age, your current health and possible side effects, the specific choice of medication or combination of medications. Common choices include:

  • StatinsThese can block a substance your liver needs to make cholesterol. This causes your liver to remove cholesterol from your blood. Statins may also help your body reabsorb cholesterol from built-up deposits on your artery walls, potentially reversing coronary artery disease.
  • Bile-acid-binding resinsYour liver uses cholesterol to make bile acids, a substance needed for digestion. The medications lower cholesterol indirectly by binding to bile acids. This prompts your liver to use excess cholesterol to make more bile acids, which reduces the level of cholesterol in your blood.
  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitorsYour small intestine absorbs the cholesterol from your diet and releases it into your bloodstream. The drug ezetimibe (Zetia) helps reduce blood cholesterol by limiting the absorption of dietary cholesterol. Ezetimibe can be used in combination with a statin drug.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage high cholesterol?

Following these tips can help you to prevent this condition:

  • Eat a low-salt diet that includes many fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Limit the amount of animal fats and use good fats in moderation
  • Lose extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Exercise on most days of the week for at least 30 minutes
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: July 18, 2017 | Last Modified: July 18, 2017

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