High Cholesterol - Overview
What is high cholesterol?
- High cholesterol is 240 or above.
- Borderline-high is 200 to 239.
- Best is less than 200.
What are the different kinds of cholesterol?
- LDL is the “bad" cholesterol, the kind that can clog your arteries. This is the cholesterol you need to lower, if you have high cholesterol.
- HDL is the “good" cholesterol. HDL helps clear fat from your blood. A high level of HDL can help protect you from a heart attack.
- Triglycerides are another type of fat in your blood. If you have high triglycerides and high LDL, your chances of having a heart attack are higher.
What are the symptoms?
What causes high cholesterol?
- The foods you eat. Eating too much saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol can raise your cholesterol. Saturated fat and cholesterol are in foods that come from animals (such as meats, whole milk, egg yolks, butter, and cheese). Trans fats are in many packaged and snack foods, such as cookies, crackers, and chips.
- Being overweight.
- Being inactive.
- Age. Cholesterol starts to rise after age 20.
- Family history. If family members have or had high cholesterol, you may also have it.
- Overall health. Diseases such as hypothyroidism can raise cholesterol.
How is high cholesterol diagnosed?
- A fasting cholesterol test is the most complete test because it measures all of the fats in your blood, including LDL and HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. You cannot have food for 9 to 12 hours before this test.
- A direct LDL test measures your LDL level only. You can have this test done at any time, even if you recently had a meal or snack.
- A simple cholesterol test can measure total cholesterol and HDL. You can eat before this test. Sometimes doctors do this test first.
How is it treated?
- Eat a heart-healthy diet that includes plenty of fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, high-fiber grains and breads, and healthy fats like olive oil.
- Lose weight, if you need to. Losing just 5 lb to 10 lb (2.3 kg to 4.5 kg) can lower your cholesterol. Losing weight can also help lower your blood pressure.
- Get regular exercise on most, if not all, days of the week. Walking is great exercise that most people can do. A good goal is 30 minutes or more a day.
- Don't smoke. Quitting can help raise your HDL and improve your heart health.
- What you eat. Eating too much saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol can cause high cholesterol. Saturated fat and cholesterol are in foods that come from animals, such as meats, whole milk, egg yolks, butter, and cheese. Trans fat is found in fried foods and packaged foods, such as cookies, crackers, and chips.
- Your weight. Being overweight may increase triglycerides and decrease HDL (good cholesterol).
- Your activity level. Lack of physical activity can lower your HDL.
- Your age and gender. After you reach age 20, your cholesterol naturally begins to rise. In men, cholesterol generally levels off after age 50. In women, it stays fairly low until menopause. Then it rises to about the same level as in men.
- Some diseases. Certain diseases may raise your risk of high cholesterol. These include hypothyroidism, chronic kidney disease, and other kidney problems.
- Your family history. High cholesterol may run in your family. If family members have or had high cholesterol, you may also have it.
- Cigarette smoking. Smoking can lower your HDL cholesterol.
- Certain medicines. Some medicines can raise triglyceride levels and lower HDL (good) cholesterol levels. These medicines include thiazide diuretics, beta-blockers, estrogen, and corticosteroids.