Cholesterol is a waxy substance, it’s an important element that your body needs in order to build cells. If the cholesterol level is too high or too low, it will cause problems.
More than 34 million American adults have elevated blood cholesterol levels (higher than 240 mg/dL).
Experts recommend that people over 20 years old should measure their cholesterol levels at least once every 5 years, and people aged 35 and older should get measured more frequently.
A blood test of cholesterol levels is known as lipoprotein profile, it contains:
- Total cholesterol
- HDL cholesterol
- LDL cholesterol
When the value of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol or triglycerides exceeds the upper limit, it’s called high cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is the good cholesterol, if you have a HDL cholesterol value higher than the upper limit, it’s not a problem.
High cholesterol has no symptoms. A blood test is the only way to detect high cholesterol.
Usually people overweight are more likely to develop high cholesterol, but people with normal weight can also have high cholesterol.
A lipoprotein profile will help doctors to diagnose. It’s a lab test with your blood sample drawn from the arm vein. Fasting is generally required for the test.
Total cholesterol can indicate your risk of heart disease. The normal range is 110～220mg/dl, and the higher the riskier.
LDL cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, refers to “bad” cholesterol. LDL cholesterol accumulates and builds up on your artery walls, makes the arteries narrower for the blood to go through. This is the major cause of Myocardial ischemia and blood clot.
LDL cholesterol normal level is < 190 mg/dl. Higher LDL cholesterol level generally means higher risk of heart attack.
HDL cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, refers to “good” cholesterol. The higher HDL cholesterol is, the less risk level you’re at concerning a heart disease.
The ideal range of HDL cholesterol is >1.04mmol/L or >40mg/dL. If the HDL cholesterol level is lower than 0.91mmol/L or 35mg/dL, it’s considered below normal range.
Triglycerides are the fats carried in the blood. They are from the food that we eat. A high triglyceride level is connected to a higher risk of coronary artery disease.
- Normal level < 150
- Mildly high 150-199
- High 200-499
- Very high ≥500
Very low-density lipoprotein
Occasionally, you may see VLDL, which is the abbreviation of very low-density lipoprotein. VLDL contains the highest amount of triglycerides.
An elevated level of VLDL cholesterol (greater than 30 mg/dL or greater than 0.77 mmol/L), like elevated LDL cholesterol, is considered a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
In case you need a formula to calculate cholesterol, click to visit this page.
The condition characterized by very high levels of cholesterol in the blood is called hypercholesterolemia. Inherited forms of hypercholesterolemia can cause even higher levels of cholesterol. The most common inherited form of high cholesterol is called familial hypercholesterolemia. This condition affects about 1 in 500 people in most countries. Familial hypercholesterolemia occurs more frequently in certain populations, including Afrikaners in South Africa, French Canadians, Lebanese, and Finns.
People with familial hypercholesterolemia usually have white or yellow patch around the eyes, knees, elbows. These patches are made of fats.
Unlike common high cholesterol, familial hypercholesterolemia is a genetic disorder, people with familial hypercholesterolemia naturally can’t get rid of fat, diet alone isn’t enough for treating familial hypercholesterolemia, medication is a must.
Get more information about familial hypercholesterolemia here.
Unhealthy diet – eating saturated fat and foods high in cholesterol will increase your total cholesterol.
Obesity – having a BMI greater than 30 will increase the risk of high cholesterol.
What’s your BMI？Is your BMI normal? Click here to find out.
Lack of exercise – exercise helps boost your body’s HDL, or “good” cholesterol while increasing the size of the particles that make up your LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, which makes it less harmful.
Smoking – smoking cigerattes can raise your bad cholesterol and lower your good cholesterol by damaging the walls of your blood vessels.
Diabetes – high blood sugar contributes to higher LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. High blood sugar also damages the lining of your arteries.
Is your blood sugar normal? Let the blood sugar checker help you.
Genetics – genetic reasons can keep cells from removing LDL cholesterol from your blood efficiently or cause your liver to produce too much cholesterol.
Medication – if you are taking medicines like thiazide diuretics, beta-blockers, estrogen, and corticosteroids, watch out your triglyceride levels and lower HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Bad cholesterol will build up on the wall of the arteries. It then becomes a type of disease, named atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis makes the arteries lose elasticity and become narrowed. The blood flow to the heart muscle is then slowed or even blocked. Then a person feels chest pain. This is the way the heart muscle tries to get more oxygen. And one day, when a portion of arteries is completely cut off by a blockage, the result is a heart attack, and the heart muscle that can’t get blood and oxygen is damaged permanently.
Similar to a heart attack, if blood flow to part of your brain is blocked by a blood clot, a stroke occurs.
High cholesterol is also associated with other non-life-threatening diseases, including erectile dysfunction.
The suggestion from CDC in preventing high cholesterol are:
1. make healthy eating choices
Get a list of foods good for healthy diet here.
2. get regular physical activity
3. quit smoking
4. limit alcohol
The treatment is a long-term and serious task. It requires both medication and change of lifestyle. The medications of cholesterol include:
- PCSK9 inhibitor
- Advicor® (niacin extended-release/lovastatin)
- Altoprev® (lovastatin extended-release)
- Caduet® (amlodipine and atorvastatin)
- Crestor® (rosuvastatin)
- Juvisync® (sitagliptin/simvastatin)
- Lescol® (fluvastatin)
- Lescol XL (fluvastatin extended-release)
- Lipitor® (atorvastatin)
- Liptruzet™ (ezetimibe/atorvastatin)
- Livalo® (pitavastatin)
- Mevacor® (lovastatin)
- Pravachol® (pravastatin)
- Simcor® (niacin extended-release/simvastatin)
- Vytorin® (ezetimibe/simvastatin)
- Zocor® (simvastatin)
PCSK9 inhibitor helps the liver to remove cholesterol out of body. It’s an injection medication, the usual dose is one shot every two weeks. PCSK9 inhibitor Praluent(alirocumab) and Repatha(evolocumab) work well to people who can’t stand the side effects of Statins, like muscle pain. PCSK9 inhibitor can be used in combination with Statins, and reach a 75% drop of bad LDL cholesterol effect.
Statins are widely used in the United States and prove effective. Statins have side effects though, some people can’t tolerate the side effects. The usual side effects include muscle pain, headache, nausea, and around 2% of patients taking Statins may have liver dysfunction. When taking Statins, patients should limit alcohol to minimum to avoid liver damage.
Diet plays an important role in managing your cholesterol level. By choosing the right diet and taking in some omega-3 fatty acid and plant sterols, you can lower your cholesterol level.
- various kinds of beans.
- vegetables, for example, eggplant and okra.
- fruits such as apples, grapes, strawberries and citrus fruits.
- lake trout.
- albacore tuna.
- some pine nuts
- pistachio nuts
- black pepper
You may also choose supplements that helps to prevent high cholesterol. Some of them can be helpful although no supplement should be used to replace medication.
- Fish Oils
- Plant sterols/stanols
- Red Rice Yeast
Manage your stress level and try to relax. Stress can take your cholesterol to the ceiling. So don’t make yourself under a lot of stress. Just jump into a good book, meet a friend for coffee, or roll down your yoga mat.
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