The American Heart Association recommends you start having your blood cholesterol levels tested at age 20 and then rechecked every four to six years. This routine health screening determines if you have high cholesterol, which is one of the factors that may increase your risk of heart disease.
At Central Clinic, our team, including our board-certified family medicine physician Dr. Poonam Malhotra, takes a holistic and integrative approach to health. We encourage these routine health screenings so we can find areas of concern before they turn into serious health problems.
Yes, your high cholesterol may put you at risk of developing heart disease. But it’s only one of the many factors we use to assess health and risk of disease. We can help you improve your cholesterol numbers to lower your risk and improve your overall wellness.
Though cholesterol has a bad reputation, your body needs the waxy fat for brain health and to make cell membranes, vitamin D, certain hormones, and bile.
In order to travel through your blood to perform these functions, cholesterol attaches to a protein — creating a lipoprotein.
There are three types of lipoproteins:
High-density lipoprotein (HDL)
HDL, sometimes called the good cholesterol, transports cholesterol from other parts of your body to your liver. Your liver then processes and removes the cholesterol from your body.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
LDL is known as the bad cholesterol. When you have too much LDL in your blood, it sticks to the walls of your blood vessels creating plaque, which narrows the passageways. This condition is called atherosclerosis.
Very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL)
VLDL is also a bad cholesterol because it contributes to the buildup of plaque along the blood vessel walls.
Your liver produces all the cholesterol your body needs, but poor diet choices, smoking, and lack of physical activity may increase blood levels of the bad cholesterol. Your genes may also contribute to your elevated blood cholesterol numbers.
The connection between cholesterol and heart disease
Atherosclerosis may affect any artery in your body, including the coronary arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart. A buildup of plaque in your coronary arteries causes coronary artery disease.
Narrowing in these arteries decreases the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart, which may cause angina — a type of chest pain that occurs during physical activity. A complete blockage of an artery causes a heart attack.
High cholesterol may also put you at risk of developing high blood pressure. Narrowing of your blood vessels forces your heart to work harder to pump blood through, which leads to high blood pressure. Like high cholesterol, high blood pressure puts you at risk of heart disease.
Assessing your heart disease risk
When it comes to assessing your risk of heart disease, your cholesterol numbers are just one of the tools we use. After we get the results of your cholesterol screening, we take into consideration your age and family history, as well your personal medical history and lifestyle habits to help us establish your heart disease risk.
However, no matter your degree of risk, our recommendations for your high cholesterol are the same. We focus on helping your create healthy lifestyle habits to lower your numbers, such as:
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Getting regular physical activity
- Quitting smoking
- Finding healthy outlets to manage stress
In addition to lowering your cholesterol, adopting a healthy lifestyle may reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
If your cholesterol levels remain high after implementing healthy habits, we may add a medication to lower your numbers.
High cholesterol is fixable. Let us help you develop healthy habits to improve your cholesterol numbers and overall health. Call our office in Spring Hill, Florida, or request an appointment while you’re already online. We also offer telehealth appointments.