High cholesterol increases your chances of developing heart disease—the leading cause of death for adults in the United States. Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in fats in your blood which your body needs to function. Having high cholesterol, though, can be dangerous for your health and can lead to potentially fatal outcomes, like coronary artery disease.
WHAT’S IN AN HDL AND LDL CHOLESTEROL NUMBER?
In the past, doctors thought that too much cholesterol was a good indicator of someone being at risk for heart disease, heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. The lower your low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) numbers and the higher your high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) numbers, the better—or so they thought.
While measuring HDL, LDL and total cholesterol is helpful, many experts now believe that assessing the size of lipoprotein particles can also be beneficial.
THE LIPOPROTEIN NUMBER
Research indicates that the blockage of arteries (which often leads to heart disease) is caused by the number and size of the lipoprotein particles that carry cholesterol throughout your body. These lipoprotein particles can build up in your arteries.
Think of it this way: These lipoproteins are the “cars” that carry “passengers” (cholesterol) along the “highways” (arteries)—it’s not the number of passengers in a car that causes a traffic jam (blocked artery), it’s the number of cars.
YOUR PARTICLE NUMBER
The number and particle size of lipoproteins in your blood are the measurements that can help your doctor determine your risk for heart disease and stroke. Simple blood tests are available that can provide a more detailed look at how your particles measure up.
The number of LDL cholesterol particles circulating in your blood is an important factor in evaluating your heart health. Generally, the lower your number of total LDL particles, and the larger the size of these particles, the lower your risk is for heart disease.
RISK FACTORS OF HIGH CHOLESTEROL
Having high blood cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease by contributing to the build-up of plaque in the arteries. Excess cholesterol can accumulate in the walls of blood vessels, narrowing the passage and limiting blood flow to vital organs. This can lead to serious health complications such as heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. High blood cholesterol is considered a significant risk factor for heart disease, and managing cholesterol levels is an important part of preventing these conditions.
HOW TO LOWER CHOLESTEROL LEVELS
Lowering cholesterol levels can be achieved through a combination of lifestyle changes. Maintaining a healthy weight can help lower cholesterol, as excess body fat can contribute to high cholesterol levels. Eating a diet low in saturated fats, trans fats, and processed foods can also help lower cholesterol levels. Replacing these fats with unsaturated fats, such as those found in nuts and fish, can be particularly beneficial. Regular exercise can also help to lower cholesterol levels and improve overall cardiovascular health.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends routine cholesterol screenings for men over the age of 35 and women over the age of 45. Screenings may also be appropriate for younger adults who possess certain risk factors, such as a family history of cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol.
By being proactive and seeking preventive care, you can help catch high cholesterol early and reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease and high blood pressure. If you have more questions about how cholesterol’s affect on heart health and how you can manage it, contact us to speak to a representative.