HIGH CHOLESTEROL What is high cholesterol? Cholesterol is a certain type of fat that your body makes. High cholesterol is simply an elevation of this fat in your blood stream. Having too much fat in the blood can lead to build up in the arteries and heart disease. What causes high cholesterol? There are many factors that contribute to elevated fats in the blood: Genetics: Many forms of high cholesterol run in families Fatty diets Diabetes Certain medicines like birth control pills and estrogen Excessive, everyday alcohol use Lack of exercise and obesity What are some symptoms that might suggest I have high cholesterol? Unfortunately there are no signs and symptoms suggestive of high cholesterol. A routine blood test is the only way to determine if someone has high cholesterol. What are the complications of having high cholesterol? Having too much fat and cholesterol in your blood can lead to serious problems, including: Atherosclerosis: a build up in your arteries that clogs them up and prevents blood flow Coronary artery disease: blockage of the vessels leading to your heart which prevents oxygen from getting to you heart. This can lead to heart damage and cause a heart attack. Stroke: If the vessels to your brain get clogged up with the extra fat in your blood, it too will not get oxygen and part of you brain could die. What can I do to prevent high cholesterol? There are many things you can do to help prevent high cholesterol and its complications. Be sure to eat a healthy, low fat, balanced diet Maintain a healthy body weight Exercise regularly Limit cholesterol intake How do I know if I have high cholesterol? It is very important to have your cholesterol checked about every 5 years or so starting around age 20-30. It is a simple blood test usually done in the morning before you’ve had anything to eat. Contact your healthcare provider or St. Vincent’s to be screened. Remember: for a “fasting cholesterol” test, you must not eat anything for 8 hours before your blood is drawn. What is the treatment for high cholesterol? If a test comes back showing high cholesterol, there are several options for treatment. Sometimes, diet and exercise can successfully lower the numbers. However, often times a pill known as a “statin” (such as Lipitor) will be needed to lower cholesterol levels. Ask your doctor about other possible treatments for high cholesterol. References: American Heart Association For more information, please talk to your healthcare provider.
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