The care team that helps you manage your high cholesterol will depend on things like how high your levels are, what’s causing it, and other medical conditions you have or may be likely to develop.
Primary care doctor: You can’t see or feel any warning signs of high cholesterol, so you’re most likely to find out you have high numbers during an annual physical with your primary care doctor. They can talk with you about lifestyle changes, like eating healthier and being more active. They also might talk about medications that can lower your levels. Based on your individual case, they also may recommend you see other health care professionals to help manage your condition.
It’s important to see your primary care doctor for regular checkups that include screenings and a blood test to keep an eye on your levels and make sure your treatment plan is working.
Lipidologist: This doctor studies fatty substances, like cholesterol, in the blood and finds ways to manage and treat conditions linked to them. A lipidologist might work with your primary care doctor to come up with a treatment plan that could include dietary changes, exercise, and medication.
Dietitian: Being overweight can make you more likely to have high cholesterol. So changing how you eat can be a big part of getting control of your numbers. Losing as little as 10 or 20 pounds can noticeably lower your “bad cholesterol” level, especially if you eat a low-fat diet that’s high in fiber and non-starch vegetables. That’s where a dietitian or nutritionist can help.
A registered dietitian is an expert in customizing nutrition plans for people with certain health conditions. They can also guide and support you as you change your daily eating habits.
Endocrinologist: These doctors specialize in the hormones that circulate throughout your body in your bloodstream. In some people, high cholesterol can be linked to hormonal conditions, including:
If that’s the case, an endocrinologist can prescribe medications that can help with the hormone issues and lower cholesterol levels.
Cardiologist: High levels of “bad cholesterol,” or LDL, can lead to a buildup of fatty substances in your arteries called plaque. Over time, that can result in a condition called atherosclerosis, which restricts the flow of blood. It’s the most common cause of heart attacks. If your primary doctor finds signs of this or thinks you might be likely to develop it, they’ll recommend that you see a cardiologist, or heart specialist.
The cardiologist may do tests to see if you have any blockage and work with other members of your care team to make a plan for treatment. In more serious cases, that might include a heart procedure or surgery.
Nurse practitioner or physician assistant: These health care professionals can help you manage your high cholesterol by doing blood work to keep an eye on your levels, prescribing medications, and talking with you about lifestyle changes.
Questions to Ask About High Cholesterol
It’s important to manage and treat high cholesterol early before it leads to serious health problems. Here are some questions to ask your health care provider if you find out your levels are high:
- What’s causing my high cholesterol levels?
- What changes should I make to my diet?
- How can I safely be more physically active?
- Do I need to take any medicine? If so, what kind and what will it do?
- How often should my cholesterol levels be checked?
- Do I need to see any other doctors or specialists?