High cholesterol is not a rare medical problem and is present almost in every third person you pass by on the road. Find out if you have it and how you can prevent it.
Most people with high cholesterol don't have any symptoms until cholesterol-related atherosclerosis causes significant narrowing of the arteries leading to their hearts or brains. The result can be:
- Heart-related chest pain (angina).
- Other symptoms of coronary artery disease.
- Symptoms of decreased blood supply to the brain (transient ischemic attacks or stroke).
About 1 out of every 500 people has an inherited disorder called familial hypercholesterolemia, which can cause extremely high cholesterol levels (above 300 milligrams per deciliter).
People with this disorder can develop nodules filled with cholesterol (xanthomas) over various tendons, especially the Achilles tendons of the lower leg. Cholesterol deposits also can occur on the eyelids, where they are called xanthelasmas.
What is the Diagnosis of High Cholesterol or Hypercholesterolemia?
Your doctor will ask if anyone in your family has had coronary artery disease, high cholesterol or diabetes. The doctor will ask about your diet and if you have ever smoked. He or she will check your blood pressure and look for xanthomas and xanthelasmas. Your doctor can confirm a diagnosis of high cholesterol with a simple blood test.
The lipoprotein panel will give doctor information about:
- Total cholesterol- Total cholesterol is a measure of the total amount of cholesterol in your blood, including low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
- LDL cholesterol- LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol is the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockages in the arteries.
- HDL cholesterol- HDL, or “good,” cholesterol helps remove cholesterol from your arteries.
- Triglycerides- Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. Some studies suggest that a high level of triglycerides in the blood may raise the risk of coronary heart disease, especially in women.
When to Seek Medical Help?
Because it is possible to have high cholesterol for many years without symptoms, it is important to have your blood cholesterol level checked periodically. Current guidelines recommend that adults older than 20 undergo a full fasting lipid profile once every five years. This test measures LDL and HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. If the numbers are outside the desirable range, your doctor may suggest that you change your diet and monitor your cholesterol more frequently.
How Can One Prevent High Cholesterol or Hypercholesterolemia?
High blood cholesterol is treated with lifestyle changes and medicines. The main goal of treatment is to lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level enough to reduce your risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack, and other related health problems.
Your risk for heart disease and heart attack goes up as your LDL cholesterol level rises and your number of heart disease risk factors increases.
Some people are at high risk for heart attacks because they already have heart disease. Other people are at high risk for heart disease because of they have diabetes or more than one heart disease risk factor.
Talk with your doctor about lowering your cholesterol and your risk for heart disease. Also, check the list to find out whether you have risk factors that affect your LDL cholesterol goal:
- Cigarette smoking.
- High blood pressure (140/90 mmHg or higher), or you’re on medicine to treat high blood pressure.
- Low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (less than 40 mg/dL).
- Family history of early heart disease (heart disease in father or brother before age 55; heart disease in mother or sister before age 65).
- Age (men 45 years or older; women 55 years or older).
According to National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, United States, we may help to prevent high cholesterol by Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC). TLC is a three-part program that includes:
A Healthy Diet
With the TLC diet, less than 7 percent of your daily calories should come from saturated fat. This kind of fat is found in some meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods.
Foods high in soluble fiber also are part of the TLC diet. They help prevent the digestive tract from absorbing cholesterol. These foods include:
- Whole-grain cereals such as oatmeal and oat bran.
- Fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges, pears, and prunes.
- Legumes such as kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and lima beans.
If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight can help lower LDL cholesterol. Maintaining a healthy weight is especially important if you have a condition called metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that raise your risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as diabetes and stroke.
The five metabolic risk factors are:
- A large waistline (abdominal obesity).
- A high triglyceride level.
- A low HDL cholesterol level.
- High blood pressure.
- High blood sugar.
Routine physical activity can lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and raise your HDL cholesterol level.
People gain health benefits from as little as 60 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. The more active you are, the more you will benefit.
In addition to lifestyle changes, your doctor may prescribe medicines to help lower your cholesterol. Even with medicines, you should continue the TLC program.
Medicines can help control high blood cholesterol, but they don’t cure it. Thus, you must continue taking your medicine to keep your cholesterol level in the recommended range.
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