What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance (lipid) that can be found in all parts of your body. It aids in the production of cell membranes, many hormones and vitamin D. The cholesterol in your blood comes from two sources: the foods you eat and your liver. Your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs – you don’t need any extra cholesterol from your diet.
Why is High Cholesterol Unhealthy?
Cholesterol causes problems only when you have too much of it in your blood. Excess cholesterol is deposited in the lining of the arteries. This includes the arteries that feed your heart muscle. These deposits cause narrowing inside of the arteries, through which blood flows. Having high blood cholesterol is asymptomatic (does not cause symptom), so many people are unaware that their cholesterol levels are too high.
Coronary artery disease is a condition in which plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, fat, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. When plaque builds up in the arteries, the condition is called atherosclerosis
You should have your cholesterol checked at least every 5 years, starting at age 20. The most accurate test is a lipoprotein profile or lipid panel, a group of blood tests given after fasting for 9 to 12 hours. The results show; total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), HDL (good cholesterol) and total triglycerides.
What causes lipid disorders (high cholesterol)?
Heredity is the main factor determining your cholesterol levels. Your diet is the second risk factor for high cholesterol. Foods containing cholesterol, saturated fats, or trans fats all contribute to your cholesterol levels. Many foods that come from animals are high in both saturated fat and cholesterol. Some non-animal foods also are high in saturated fat. Foods with coconut and palm oils, trans fats, and hydrogenated vegetable oils like shortening and margarine raise cholesterol.
Other factors that influence your cholesterol levels include:
- Weight. Being overweight usually raises your LDL cholesterol. Losing weight may lower your LDL level and triglycerides, and boost your HDL cholesterol.
- Exercise. Getting regular exercise may lower your LDL cholesterol and raise your HDL cholesterol.
- Age and Gender. Until menopause, women usually have lower total cholesterol levels than men. After age 50, women often have higher total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. For both men and women, total cholesterol levels rise until about age 65.
- Alcohol. Although alcohol boosts HDL cholesterol, it has no effect on LDL cholesterol, and drinking too much alcohol raises triglycerides. Too much alcohol also damages the liver, brain, and heart.
- Smoking. If you smoke, giving up tobacco will increase HDL levels.
How is High Cholesterol Treated?
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.
Weight Management – If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight can help lower LDL cholesterol.
Physical Activity – 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.
Cholesterol Lowering Medications – In addition to lifestyle changes, your doctor may prescribe medicines to help lower your cholesterol. 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.
You should know your cholesterol and know your risk factors. While you’re being treated for high blood cholesterol, you’ll need ongoing care. Dr. Khoo will want to make sure your cholesterol levels are controlled. She will also want to check for other health problems.
If needed, she may prescribe medicines for other health issues. Take all medicines exactly as prescribed. The combination of medicines may lower your risk for heart disease and heart attack.
We encourage you to ask as many questions as necessary until you are confident that you understand your heart condition, medications or procedures you may be considering.
In her practice as a top heart doctor in Albuquerque, Dr. Michelle Khoo wants you to be informed, comfortable and confident about your treatment plan.
Quality Healthcare is at the Heart of Everything We Do.
To schedule a consultation with Dr. Khoo call 1-505-248-1802 or click here to request an appointment online.
Khoo & Associates Cardiology and Wellness is a boutique Cardiovascular Health & Wellness practice that is focused on delivering outstanding, comprehensive and ethical cardiovascular care to patients in Albuquerque and the surrounding counties of Bernalillo, Sandoval, Torrance and Valencia in New Mexico.
Our experienced and dedicated team offers our patients the combined collective experience and knowledge necessary to ensure the highest level of patient care in two convenient office locations – Downtown Albuquerque and Rio Rancho.