What Treatments Are Recommended If My Level Is Too High
One treatment option is to adopt a lifestyle that will help lower your levels, one including exercise and a diet that is low in saturated fats and trans fat. If diet and exercise alone cannot lower cholesterol enough, drugs are often recommended and usually aim to lower LDL-C levels specifically. Sometimes, two different drugs are used together to treat people with extremely high cholesterol levels. The drug of choice differs for different people although the most commonly used lipid-lowering drugs are statins. Your healthcare practitioner will need to take into account your individual situation before prescribing any cholesterol-lowering drug.
When Should I Get A Cholesterol Test
Cholesterol testing has different uses depending on your overall health situation and can be used for screening, monitoring, or diagnosis. In general, tests to measure cholesterol typically begin as an adult, usually around 35 years old.
Health screening is a way of proactively looking for potential problems before symptoms become apparent. Cholesterol tests are often used in this way to identify people who may have an above-average risk of cardiovascular problems.
There are no consensus guidelines for when to do cholesterol screening. Based on different views of the benefits and downsides of screening, expert groups have varying recommendations for when to start screening and how frequently to do repeat tests.
In general, screening occurs less often in people who do not have risk factors for cardiovascular problems. In low-risk patients, screening with a lipid panel test may begin in their 20s, 30s, or 40s and be repeated about every five years. If results are normal, screening may continue with only measurements of total cholesterol and HDL.
People with risk factors tend to start screening at a younger age and have screening tests more frequently. Some risk factors for cardiovascular disease include:
- Being over 45 years old for men and over 50-55 for women
- High cholesterol on a previous test
- Prior cardiovascular problems
Normal Blood Count Levels
When you get your complete blood test done, your doctor will check to make sure your levels are within a healthy range.
These numbers vary for men and women. The following blood count levels are considered healthy:
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Biggest Causes Of High Cholesterol
High cholesterol is closely linked to lifestyle habits, which means you can make a difference. Your body produces all the LDL cholesterol it needs. But an unhealthy lifestyle, such as being sedentary and eating unhealthy foods, causes the body to produce more LDL cholesterol than it needs. Avoid the following behaviors to lower your LDL levels:
- Unhealthy diet
How And When To Have Your Cholesterol Checked
Getting your cholesterol levels checked is an important part of staying healthy. High cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the United States.
Knowing your cholesterol status can help you stay in control of your health. Learn about cholesterol screening and why it is important.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body needs to make hormones and digest fats. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs, but you can also get cholesterol from eating certain foods, such as egg yolks and fatty meats. Having high blood cholesterol can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke. High blood cholesterol doesnt have symptoms, which is why getting your cholesterol levels checked is so important.
Learn more about cholesterol screenings.
You should get your cholesterol checked at least every 5 years. If you have cardiovascular risk factors, talk with your health care team about getting tested more often.
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What Are Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol circulating in the blood is carried by special particles called lipoproteins. The two major cholesterol-carrying lipoproteins are low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein :
- LDL cholesterol is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol because too much of it can build up in your arteries and form plaques, which increases the risk of heart disease .
- HDL cholesterol is often referred to as “good” cholesterol as it carries cholesterol to the liver to be broken down and excreted.
Since your total cholesterol is a combination of your LDL cholesterol and your HDL cholesterol, ideally you want to keep your LDL levels low and your HDL levels high. There are many factors that can influence your cholesterol, including, diet, exercise, weight, genetics, and other health conditions.
What Does The Test Result Mean
In general, healthy lipid levels help to maintain a healthy heart and lower the risk of heart attack or stroke. A healthcare practitioner will take into consideration total cholesterol results and the other components of a lipid profile as well as other risk factors to help determine a person’s overall risk of heart disease, whether treatment is necessary and, if so, which treatment will best help to lower the person’s risk.
In 2002, the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III provided the guidelines for evaluating lipid levels and determining treatment. However, in 2013, the ACC and AHA issued guidelines for adults that made recommendations on who should receive cholesterol-lowing therapy. .
However, use of the updated guidelines remains controversial. Many still use the older guidelines from the NCEP ATP III to evaluate lipid levels and cardiovascular disease risk:
For adults, in a routine setting where testing is done to screen for risk, the test results are grouped in three categories of risk:
For children and adolescents:
- A cholesterol below 170 mg/dL is acceptable.
- A result of 170-199 mg/dL is borderline.
- A total cholesterol reading greater than or equal to 200 mg/dL is considered high.
For young adults:
- A cholesterol below 190 mg/dL is acceptable.
- A result of 190-224 mg/dL is borderline.
- A total cholesterol greater than or equal to 225 mg/dL is considered high.
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How To Read Your Results
Your blood will likely be checked using a test called a total lipid profile. To understand your cholesterol test results, youll need to know the different types of cholesterol that the test measures and whats considered normal, potentially risky, and high.
Heres a breakdown of each type. Keep in mind that people who have conditions such as diabetes may need to aim for even lower numbers.
What Affects Cholesterol Levels
There are a variety of factors that can affect cholesterol levels. Some risk factors are within your control, while others are not:
- Genetics: These factors include familial hypercholesterolemia and a family history of heart disease.
- Sex: Males often have higher levels of LDL. After menopause, a woman’s LDL levels can also increase.
- Weight: People who are overweight or obese are at increased risk of having high cholesterol.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity can increase the risk of overweight and obesity and, in turn, increase cholesterol levels.
- Diet: Overall diet quality can affect cholesterol in a negative way, including eating too many saturated and trans fats and not enough fiber.
- Age: Your body’s ability to clear cholesterol can be impacted as you age.
- Race and ethnicity: There are different rates of high cholesterol based on race/ethnicity and sex, with the highest rates among males in Hispanics and the highest rates among females in non-Hispanic Whites.
- Smoking: Smoking can increase your bad cholesterol and lower your good cholesterol.
- Other medical conditions: Having a previous history of high cholesterol, heart disease, or diabetes can increase your risk of developing high cholesterol.
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Other Factors Affecting Your Triglycerides Level
The frequency of having your triglycerides level checked will definitely depend on your current health status, your age, and your personal and family history. Other factors that can affect the level of your triglycerides include medications. These include some blood pressure meds, Accutane, steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs. In addition, even some drugs that work to lower your cholesterol can increase your triglyceride levels. If you are taking any medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist as to how often you should have your triglycerides level checked.
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When Is It Ordered
Cholesterol testing is recommended as a screening test to be done for all adults with no risk factors for heart disease at least once every four to six years. It is frequently done in conjunction with a routine physical exam.
Cholesterol is tested at more frequent intervals when a person has one or more risk factors for heart disease. Major risk factors include:
Screening for high cholesterol as part of a lipid profile is recommended for children and young adults. They should be tested once between the ages of 9 and 11 and then again between the ages of 17 and 21. Earlier and more frequent screening with a lipid profile is recommended for children and youths who are at an increased risk of developing heart disease as adults. Some of the risk factors are similar to those in adults and include a family history of heart disease or health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or being overweight. When the youth’s body mass index is at or above the 85th percentile, cholesterol testing is recommended. For an obese youth , laboratory tests to measure cholesterol levels may be recommended every 2 years.
What Can Cause Unhealthy Cholesterol Levels
LDL cholesterol levels tend to increase as people get older. Other causes of high LDL cholesterol levels include:
- Family history of high LDL cholesterol
- High blood pressure or type 2 diabetes
- Not getting enough physical activity
- Eating too much saturated fat and not enough fruits and vegetables
- Taking certain medicines, like medicines to lower blood pressure
Causes of low HDL cholesterol levels include:
- Not getting enough physical activity
- Not eating enough fruits, vegetables, and unsaturated fats
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What Affects The Test
Many conditions can affect cholesterol and triglyceride levels, including:
- Medicines, such as diuretics, corticosteroids, male sex hormones , tranquillizers, estrogen, birth control pills, antibiotics, and niacin .
- Physical stress, such as infection, heart attack, surgery.
- Other conditions, such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, or kidney or liver disease.
- Alcohol use disorder.
- Liver disease , malnutrition, or hyperthyroidism.
- Pregnancy. Values are the highest during the third trimester and usually return to the pre-pregnancy levels after delivery of the baby.
Your doctor will talk with you about any abnormal results that may be related to your other health problems.
Medical History And Physical Exam
Your doctor will ask about your eating habits, physical activity, family history, medicines you are taking, and risk factors for heart or blood vessel diseases.
During your physical exam, your doctor will check for signs of very high blood cholesterol, such as xanthomas, or signs of other health conditions that can cause high blood cholesterol.
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How Do I Know If Im At Risk For Heart Disease
Heart disease is a general term that refers to the heart muscle, heart valves, heart rhythm and arteries that supply the heart muscle. To learn if you are at risk for a heart disease, consider:
Family history A mom, dad or sibling with a history of coronary artery disease or heart attack may increase your risk. Heart arrhythmias can also run in families, and you should be evaluated by a heart rhythm specialist if a family member died suddenly of a heart arrhythmia. Some heart muscle disorders, known as cardiomyopathies, also may run in families.
Laboratory testing A blood test to measure cholesterol and glucose levels will help you assess risk for coronary artery disease.
Exam See your healthcare provider to check weight and blood pressure. High blood pressure and obesity increase your risk for coronary artery disease. If you smoke, quit. Cigarette smoking can increase your heart attack risk. An inactive lifestyle also increases your risk for heart disease.
What Are The Symptoms Of Heart Disease
Heart disease may not cause symptoms and may be “silent.” Sometimes, heart disease is diagnosed when a person experiences signs of a heart attack, heart failure or arrhythmia.
Heart attack: Symptoms of heart attacks are sudden and can occur when you’re resting or awaken you from sleep. You may feel tightness or pressure in the chest radiating to the arm, neck or jaw. Heart attacks may be associated with nausea, breaking out into a cold sweat or having shortness of breath .
The chest pain can be on the left, right, mid-chest or low-chest. Don’t get caught up in the location get to the hospital. Often, lower chest tightness or pressure is mistaken for stomach issues. Other symptoms are upper back tightness and pressure, fainting, and extreme fatigue.
Heart failure: Heart failure is associated with shortness of breath, leg swelling, inability to lie flat because of shortness of breath and decreased physical endurance, meaning your body is unable to do activity for a long period of time.
Arrhythmia: The symptoms of arrhythmia include rapid, skipped or fluttering heart beats fainting near fainting and lightheadedness.
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Do I Need Regular Check
You should have your cholesterol checked regularly once you start taking a statin. At first, visits are scheduled every 1 to 3 months. If your cholesterol level is not dropping enough, your doctor may give you a higher dose or add other medicines. Once your cholesterol level is on track, then visits can occur less often, such as every 3 months or every year.
Your doctor may ask you about side effects that you may be having. If you are having certain side effects, your doctor may want to do some blood tests. This is especially true if you are taking high doses of statins or if you have other medical problems. The tests can check on the effects of statins on your muscles, liver, and blood sugar. Some people with side effects from one statin do better if they switch to another statin.
The check-up is a good time to talk about lifestyle changes you are working on too. Following a heart-healthy diet, losing weight, and adding exercise to your routine can be hard. But they are important. Talking to a trusted expert like your doctor can really help.
With regular check-ups or calls, it wont be long until your cholesterol falls!
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How Common Is High Cholesterol
About 93 million U.S. adults who are 20 or older have high cholesterol. Because high cholesterol can start at a young age and can be life-threatening, its important to take high cholesterol seriously and get checked, even if you dont have symptoms.
Studies also show that 1 in 5 adolescents have an unhealthy cholesterol reading, which could be the result of several factors.
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What If My Cholesterol Levels Aren’t Healthy
As your LDL cholesterol gets higher, so does your risk of heart disease. Take these steps to lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease:
- Eat heart-healthy foods
- Stay at a healthy weight
- If you smoke, quit
- If you have type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, take steps to manage it
- Ask your doctor about taking medicine to lower your risk of heart attack and stroke
Children And Cholesterol Testing
Children as young as age 2 can have high cholesterol, but not all children need to be screened for high cholesterol. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a cholesterol test only for children between the ages of 2 and 10 who have a known family history of high cholesterol or premature coronary artery disease. Your childs doctor may recommend retesting if your childs first test shows he or she has abnormal cholesterol levels. If you have a family history of coronary artery disease that develops at a young age, your doctor may recommend more frequent cholesterol tests beyond the recommended screenings.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends testing if the childs family history for high cholesterol is unknown, but the child has risk factors for high cholesterol, such as obesity, high blood pressure or diabetes.
Theres little risk in getting a cholesterol test. You may have some soreness or tenderness around the site where your blood is drawn. Rarely, the site may become infected.
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What Age Should I Get Screened For High Blood Cholesterol
About 1 in 5 adolescents have an unhealthy cholesterol reading,1 and nearly 93 million U.S. adults age 20 or older have high cholesterol.2 But since high cholesterol doesnt have symptoms, many people dont know their levels are high.
Cholesterol should be checked starting early in lifeeven children and adolescents should have their cholesterol checked.
Cholesterol testing should be done
- Every 5 years for people age 20 or older who are at low risk for cardiovascular disease.3
- More frequently than every 5 years for people with cardiovascular disease risk factors.3
The 2018 ACC/AHA Guidelines recommend that cholesterol management be based on a persons lifetime cardiovascular risk.1
If your family has a history of early heart attacks or heart disease, or if a child has obesity or diabetes, doctors may recommend screening for high cholesterol more often.