According to the CDC, approximately 1 in 3 American adults have high cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like material made by your liver. Your body needs cholesterol to perform vital functions like making hormones and digesting fatty foods. Your body is able to naturally make all the cholesterol it needs, which is why experts advise people to eat as little cholesterol as possible in their diet. Dietary cholesterol can be found in animal foods like meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.
High cholesterol is a condition in which the levels of bad fats or lipids are too high in your blood. This condition is typically caused by lifestyle factors like diet or genes inherited from your parents, or some combination of both. High cholesterol can also be less commonly caused by other medical conditions or certain medications. Cholesterol travels through your body on proteins in the blood called lipoproteins. The two types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol through your body include:
You could be diagnosed with high cholesterol if you consistently have high levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol in your blood from a routine blood test called a lipid panel. If your body has too much LDL cholesterol it can build up on the walls of your blood vessels, which is called plaque. When your body builds up plaque over time the inside of your vessels narrow which blocks blood flow to and from your heart and other organs.
The most common cause of high cholesterol is leading an unhealthy lifestyle. Other causes of high cholesterol could be your genetics, other medical conditions, or certain medications.
Sometimes high cholesterol develops in which an individual’s genes mutate or change. These mutations make it more difficult for the body to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood or break it down in the liver. One inherited form of high cholesterol is called familial hypercholesterolemia that causes high blood levels of LDL cholesterol and may cause a heart attack at an early age.
These medical conditions could cause high cholesterol:
Certain medications taken for other medical conditions can increase your cholesterol, the medications include:
There are many ways for you to be screened for high cholesterol, as well as many steps you can take to prevent high cholesterol. Your doctor can order a routine blood test called a lipid panel to screen you for high cholesterol. The frequency of this blood test all depends on your age, risk factors, or family history of high cholesterol and other cardiovascular diseases.
High cholesterol does not have distinct symptoms, but people who have high cholesterol may show signs of xanthomas and corneal arcus. Having high cholesterol does lead to atherosclerosis which is the buildup of plaque in your blood vessels. Over time chronic or uncontrolled high cholesterol can lead to serious complications including:
High cholesterol may be diagnosed by your doctor after reviewing your medical and family history, physical exam, and lipid panel review. If you have consistently high levels of LDL cholesterol on repeated blood tests you may be diagnosed with high cholesterol. Your doctor may order more testing to verify you don’t have other medical conditions that could be causing high cholesterol.
High cholesterol can easily be treated with heart-healthy lifestyle changes and medications that can control and lower your high cholesterol. There is also a procedure that can be done for those diagnosed with familial hypercholesterolemia called lipoprotein apheresis.
If you have been unsuccessful at lowering your cholesterol levels with lifestyle changes alone your doctor may recommend a prescription medication, these could include:
Lipoprotein apheresis is a procedure that may be recommended for those with familial hypercholesterolemia as it works to lower their blood cholesterol levels. This procedure is a dialysis-like process where LDL cholesterol is extracted from the blood by a filtering machine and the remaining blood is then returned into the patient.
Everybody can take steps every day to help prevent or manage high cholesterol. By making healthy choices and managing your other help conditions you can keep your cholesterol levels in a healthy range. If you are struggling with high cholesterol and wish to talk with a healthcare provider to customize a treatment plan for you check out our list of the top online doctors that can help you reach your goals today. With the advancements in technology today there are numerous telemedicine companies that have appointments available the same day with high-quality healthcare professionals. What are you waiting for? Check one out today from the comfort of your own home.