Conditions & Symptoms
Cholesterol is an essential component for building healthy cells in your body. However, too much can lead to atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in your arteries. Over time, the fatty deposits from too much cholesterol in your blood can interfere with blood flow through the arteries. The deposits can even break off and form a clot that could cause a heart attack or stroke.
High Cholesterol Symptoms & Causes
While risk factors such as family history can contribute to high cholesterol, the most common cause is an unhealthy diet. There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is known as the “bad” cholesterol because of its tendency to build up in your arteries. HDL is considered the "good" cholesterol because it removes excess cholesterol from your blood to your liver. Consuming too much LDL cholesterol is what leads to a diagnosis of high cholesterol.
There are no high cholesterol symptoms. You must have a blood test to determine if you have the condition.
The goal of high cholesterol treatments is to bring your numbers down to normal ranges to reduce your risk of disease. At Cardiovascular Medicine, we’re proud to offer our lipid clinic for cholesterol management. The goal of the program is to teach patients how to make better choices that will allow them to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle. Through education, medication, and regular monitoring, we can help you achieve better health.
Our lipid clinic staff will help you design a personalized treatment plan that may include:
- Healthy Diet
Managing high cholesterol is possible with the right treatment plan. It begins with making healthier choices. Diet and exercise serve as the foundation for good heart health. Medication can be a great resource when lifestyle changes aren’t enough. Our main goal is to help you achieve consistently normal cholesterol ranges so your risk of heart disease is lower.
More on High Cholesterol
Being Aware of Your Cholesterol Levels
It’s important to be aware of your cholesterol levels, especially if you have additional risk factors. Since there are no specific high cholesterol symptoms, having regular cholesterol screenings is essential for your health. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), your first cholesterol screening should take place between the ages of 9 and 11, and then be repeated every five years after that. We recommend screenings every one to two years for men starting at age 45, and for women beginning at age 55. Over age 65, we recommend cholesterol tests for everyone annually. Those with a personal or family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, or certain other risk factors may need to get tested more often.
If we discover you have high cholesterol, we will recommend a treatment plan to help you lower your levels.
Dieting to Help Lower Cholesterol
- Reducing saturated fats (found in red meat) can decrease your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the "bad" cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is often called the “bad” cholesterol because it collects in the walls of your blood vessels, which increases your risk of heart attack or stroke.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids to help lower your blood pressure. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts and flaxseeds. Omega-3 fatty acids may benefit heart health by:
- Decreasing triglycerides
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing blood clotting
- Decreasing the risk of strokes and heart failure
- Reduces irregular heartbeats
- Increase soluble fiber to reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. It’s found in such foods as oatmeal, kidney beans, and pears.
- Adding whey protein to your diet helps to lower both LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol as well as blood pressure.
- Exercising at least 30 minutes, five times a week will help to lower your cholesterol. The most recent guidelines recommend at least 22 minutes of movement each day. Walking, biking, or playing your favorite sport are great ways to get up and move.
Medications for Lowering Cholesterol
- Statins are one of the most commonly used drugs for lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. They work by slowing down your liver’s production. They’re considered to be most effective for preventing coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and death.
- Bile acid sequestrants help remove cholesterol from the bloodstream by removing bile acids.
- Nicotinic acid raises high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels while lowering total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
- Fibrates lower a type of fat in your blood called triglycerides.