High Cholesterol - Overview
What is high cholesterol?
a type of fat (lipid) in your blood. Your cells need
cholesterol, and your body makes all it
needs. But you also get cholesterol from the food you eat.
If you have too much cholesterol, it starts to build up in your arteries .
(Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart.) This is
called hardening of the arteries, or
atherosclerosis . It is usually a slow process that
gets worse as you get older.
To understand what happens, think
about how a clog forms in the pipe under a kitchen sink. Like the buildup of
grease in the pipe, the buildup of cholesterol narrows your arteries and makes
it harder for blood to flow through them. It reduces the amount of blood that
gets to your body tissues, including your heart. This can lead to serious
heart attack and
Your cholesterol is measured by a blood test:
is 240 or above.
200 to 239.
Best is less than 200.
What are the different kinds of cholesterol?
LDL is the
"bad" cholesterol, the kind that can clog your arteries. This is the
cholesterol you need to lower, if you have high cholesterol.
HDL is the "good" cholesterol. HDL helps clear fat from your blood. A high level of HDL can help protect you from a heart
Triglycerides are another type of fat
in your blood. If you have high triglycerides and high LDL, your
chances of having a heart attack are higher.
What are the symptoms?
High cholesterol doesn't
make you feel sick. By the time you find out you have it, it may already be
clogging your arteries. So it is very important to start treatment even though
you may feel fine.
What causes high cholesterol?
Many things can
cause high cholesterol, including:
The foods you eat. Eating too
saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol can raise
your cholesterol. Saturated fat and cholesterol are in foods that come from
animals (such as meats, whole milk, egg yolks, butter, and cheese). Trans fats are in many
packaged and snack foods, such as cookies, crackers, and
Age. Cholesterol starts to rise after age 20.
Family history. If family members have or had high cholesterol, you may also have it.
Overall health. Diseases such as
hypothyroidism can raise cholesterol.
How is high cholesterol diagnosed?
need a blood test to check your cholesterol. There are
several kinds of tests:
A fasting cholesterol test is the most
complete test because it measures all of the fats in your blood,
HDL cholesterol, and
triglycerides. You cannot have food for 9
to 12 hours before this test.
A direct LDL test measures your LDL level
only. You can have this test done at any time, even if you recently had a meal
A simple cholesterol test can measure total cholesterol
and HDL. You can eat before this test. Sometimes doctors do this test first.
How is it treated?