Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that can build up in the walls of your arteries. Your body uses cholesterol to digest foods, produce Vitamin D and to make hormones. Your body makes its own cholesterol but you can also get cholesterol from the foods you eat.
When you have too much cholesterol in your bloodstream, you have high cholesterol, or hyperlipidemia.
High cholesterol can build up in your arteries, which is called plaque. This plaque causes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which can lead to:
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Peripheral artery disease
- Type 2 diabetes
High Cholesterol Diagnosis
Most people have no symptoms of high cholesterol. That’s why it’s important to have your cholesterol levels checked by your physician at least every 3 years.
Your physician will measure your cholesterol levels with a blood test. The American Heart Association recommends using the following numbers to assess your total cholesterol levels:
- Less than 200 is optimal
- 200 to 239 is borderline high cholesterol
- 240 or higher is high cholesterol
Although a total cholesterol level over 200 may mean you are at an increased risk of heart disease, a breakdown of cholesterol levels (lipid profile) may give your doctor a better idea of your risk. A lipid profile will measure your LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), your HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and your triglycerides (amount of fat in your blood).
Cholesterol screenings normally begin between the ages of 20 and 35 in men and 20 and 45 in women. If results are normal and you do not have other high cholesterol risk factors, follow-up screening is usually done every 3 years. If you do have high cholesterol, or risk factors for high cholesterol, follow-up cholesterol testing may be done more frequently.
High Cholesterol Treatment
Your treatment course will rely heavily on lowering your cholesterol. Our team will work with you to develop key lifestyle changes to improve your health.
High cholesterol is reversible in many cases. Your treatment may include:
- Regular exercise
- Healthy diet that is low in fat
- Quitting smoking
If your high cholesterol is related to obesity, you may also be a candidate for our Weight Management Center.