What Are The Complications Of High Cholesterol
High cholesterol can lead to plaques in your arteries and reduce blood flow, potentially leading to dangerous complications such as:
- Chest pain, since the arteries that supply your heart with blood can be affected.
- Increased risk of a heart attack
- Increased risk of a stroke
Since complications can be quite serious, its important to be tested regularly and talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns you may have.
Results Of Cholesterol Tests
After your cholesterol test, your GP or nurse will explain your results. They will calculate the risk you have of developing heart disease or stroke within the next 10 years.
This risk is not just based on your cholesterol reading.
It also takes into account:
- your BMI which measures your weight in relation to your height
- treatable risk factors like high blood pressure , diabetes and other medical conditions
- your age, sex, family history and ethnicity
Based on your results, your GP or nurse will recommend steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
They may also recommend cholesterol-lowering medication, such as statins.
How The Test Is Performed
Cholesterol tests are performed on blood samples taken in a clinic, hospital, or outpatient center. This sample blood is usually collected from a vein in the forearm. Youll feel a pinch when its being taken, and, from start to finish, the procedure typically only takes about five minutes.
A rapid test, which relies on blood collected from a finger prick, can also be given in the clinic or taken at home. These are typically not as accurate or detailed as their standard counterparts.
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What Do The Test Results Mean
If you get a lipid profile test, the results will show 4 numbers. A lipid profile measures:
- Total cholesterol
- HDL cholesterol
Total cholesterol is a measure of all the cholesterol in your blood. It’s based on the LDL, HDL, and triglycerides numbers.
LDL cholesterol is the bad type of cholesterol that can block your arteries so a lower level is better for you. Having a high LDL level can increase your risk for heart disease.
HDL cholesterol is the good type of cholesterol that helps clear LDL cholesterol out of your arteries so a higher level is better for you. Having a low HDL cholesterol level can increase your risk for heart disease.
Triglycerides are a type of fat in your blood that can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.
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.
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Getting A Cholesterol Test
We recommend that all adults should get a cholesterol check no matter what your age or how healthy you feel.
The only way to know your cholesterol levels is to get a check. High cholesterol doesn’t usually have any signs or symptoms and it can be caused by your genes as well as your lifestyle, so we advise getting a check even if you are young, fit and feel healthy.
A cholesterol check involves a simple blood test.
Your doctor should also check another blood fat called triglycerides, as these also affect your heart health.
A test will show you if you need to make healthy changes. High cholesterol can lead to heart attacks and strokes. A cholesterol test, along with other simple tests including a blood pressure test, BMI and waist measurement, will give you a good idea of your heart health and show you if you need to make any lifestyle changes or need treatment.
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What Happens During A Cholesterol Test
The cholesterol test, or screening, requires a simple blood draw. You may need to fast for 8 to 12 hours before your cholesterol test. Be sure to ask your doctor how to prepare for the test.
The cholesterol test checks your levels of:
- Low-density lipoprotein or badcholesterol. Having high levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries and result in heart disease or stroke.
- High-density lipoprotein or goodcholesterol. HDL is known as good cholesterol because high levels can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Triglycerides, a type of fat in your blood that your body uses for energy. The combination of high levels of triglycerides with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol levels can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.
- Total cholesterol, the total amount of cholesterol in your blood based on your HDL, LDL, and triglycerides numbers.
Normal Cholesterol Levels By Age
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that plays many roles in the body, including synthesizing hormones and vitamin D. It also assists in the transporting of lipids. Cholesterol is found in the foods you eat, but it is also made by the liver.
We need some cholesterol to build healthy cells, but an accumulation of the bad kind can be problematic, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis. The recommended ranges for your cholesterol will depend on your age. Find out what cholesterol levels are, why age is a factor, and how to keep your levels within a healthy range.
Verywell / Jessica Olah
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What Does A Cholesterol Check Involve
A cholesterol test involves a a simple blood test, this can be done in two ways:
You can eat and drink normally before your test unless your doctor asks you not to. If you have a sample taken with a needle and syringe, you might be asked not to eat for 10-12 hours beforehand, usually overnight.
How To Prepare For The Test
Theres not too much that goes into preparing for a cholesterol test. Whenever you go in for medical visit, its a good idea to come early and bring a list of any medications or supplements youre taking. Wear comfortable and loose-fitting clothing so that you dont put pressure on the site of collection when leaving. In addition, you may be asked to steer clear of any food or drink for 912 hours before the test.
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What Is High Cholesterol
So, what is cholesterol, and what contributes to high cholesterol levels?
Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance that your body needs to build cells, vitamin D, and other hormones. Cholesterol even helps with food digestion. However, your body can only use a limited amount of cholesterol at a time.
Cholesterol is made by the body in the liver, but it also enters the body through some foods like meat and dairy products. Your body needs cholesterol to work properly, but its important to be aware of what causes high cholesterol and what can happen when theres too much in your body.
High cholesterol can build up in your arteries and make you more susceptible to heart disease. When cholesterol levels are too high, fatty deposits can build up in your blood vessels and make it difficult for your blood to flow through your arteries.
Why Cholesterol Screening Is So Important
Your body needs some cholesterol to perform certain functions. But whentheres too much of it circulating in your blood, it can start to build up onthe inside walls of your blood vessels, which restricts the flow of blood toyour heart and brain. Eventually, this could cause a heart attack or stroke.
Thats where screening comes in. A lipid panel is an easy, inexpensive screening blood test that can be very helpful in identifying patients that are at risk for cardiovascular disease, explains preventive cardiologist Luke Laffin, MD.
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Cholesterol And Triglyceride Screening
Some health organizations recommend that everyone older than age 20 be checked for high cholesterol.
Some health organizations recommend that everyone age 20 and older be checked for high cholesterol.footnote 1 The Canadian Cardiovascular Society recommends cholesterol tests based on age and risk factors for heart disease. footnote 2
Talk to your doctor about when you should get a cholesterol test.
For more information, see When to Have a Cholesterol Test.
How Is Cholesterol Tested
Cholesterol is measured using a blood test. A healthcare provider will draw your blood using a needle and collect it in a vial. This typically takes place at your doctors office or at a lab where the blood is then analyzed.
The test only takes a couple of minutes and is relatively painless. However, you might have some soreness or bruising on your arm around the injection site.
Your results will likely be available in a few days or within a couple of weeks.
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What Affects Your Cholesterol Levels
- Diet. Saturated fat in the foods you eat raises your bad cholesterol level.
- Weight. Extra pounds increase your cholesterol and your chance of getting heart disease.
- Exercise. Get it regularly, since that can lower “bad” cholesterol and bring up the “good.”
- Genes. They influence how much cholesterol your body makes. High levels can run in families.
- Other causes. Certain medications and medical conditions can raise your levels. High triglycerides could come from diabetes or thyroid problems. It can help to lose extra weight and avoid foods that are high in calories.
What Do My Cholesterol Test Results Mean
Your doctor will tell you the results of the blood tests. The results are not interpreted on their own and are not used to diagnose a disease. Instead, they provide information on your overall health and your risk of heart attack and stroke. Sometimes high cholesterol levels can be an early warning to make lifestyle changes to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Your doctor will use other cardiovascular disease risk factors such as your age, sex, blood pressure and whether you smoke or have diabetes when deciding whether treatment is needed.
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What Are The Risk Factors For High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is one of the building blocks of a healthy cell. The body needs cholesterol, but excess amounts can lead to serious disease and complications. High cholesterol creates fat deposits in the bloodstream that prevent blood from flowing through the arteries. A person can end up having a stroke or heart attack due to blocked arteries.
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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Why Age Is A Factor
The recommended ranges for your cholesterol will vary based on age and gender. As people get older, cholesterol levels rise naturally. For example, people who have gone through menopause may have higher LDL and lower HDL cholesterol levels.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children’s cholesterol levels be checked between ages 9 and 11.
However, children with certain risk factors, such as those whose parents or grandparents have had heart attacks or been diagnosed with blocked arteries at age 55 or earlier in males or 65 or earlier in females, should be tested for cholesterol between ages 2 and 10.
Why Test Your Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol can be an important indicator of your health. High levels of LDL cholesterol or low levels of HDL cholesterol can put you at risk for heart disease and stroke. Currently, the CDC estimates that over 95 million adults age 20 or over have high cholesterol.As a result, its important that individuals schedule cholesterol screenings to check their cholesterol levels, especially since most people with high cholesterol levels will not present any symptoms. Furthermore, if you have risk factors for high cholesterol, you may face additional risk for heart disease and stroke.
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How Often Should I Get My Cholesterol Checked
You should have your cholesterol checked yearly, or as often as your HCP suggests. You may need more-frequent testing if you have high cholesterol and are being treated with either diet and exercise or a combination of diet, exercise and medication.
This resource has been created with support from Amgen, Bristol Myers Squibb & Novartis.
Should You Be Tested How Often
The latest Canadian Cholesterol Guidelines recommend cholesterol testing for:
- men 40 years of age and older
- women 50 years of age and older
- postmenopausal women
- people with diabetes
- people who are overweight or obese
- people who have high blood pressure
- people with a strong family history of family members who have had heart disease at an early age
- people with physical signs of high cholesterol, such as yellow lesions under the skin or a grey ring around the cornea
- people with atherosclerosis
- men with symptoms of erectile dysfunction
- people with chronic kidney disease
- people with HIV infection who are receiving treatment with highly active antiretroviral therapy
- people with systemic lupus erythematosus , rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriasis
- children with a family history of high cholesterol levels
For people in the groups above, cholesterol tests should be done every 1 to 3 years or more frequently for those with abnormal values or if treatment is started. Even if you’re not in one of these groups, your doctor may decide to test your cholesterol levels if he or she feels it is needed.
Your doctor will recommend a cholesterol testing schedule depending on your age, your general health, and whether you are taking medications to lower your cholesterol.
Your doctor will usually monitor your cholesterol after you start a new medication or change the dose. After you reach the right dose, tests will take place every 6 to 12 months.
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An Easy And Important Test
High cholesterol usually has no symptoms. Thats why its important to have your doctor check your cholesterol levels with a simple blood test.
It may be a “fasting” or “non-fasting” lipoprotein profile. Your doctor will tell you if you should fast before your test.
In the test, a health care professional takes a sample of your blood. If additional blood tests are needed, all the samples are usually taken at once. Discomfort is usually minor.
After the blood sample is taken, its analyzed in a laboratory, where the levels of HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are measured. Your test report will show your cholesterol level in milligrams per deciliter of blood .
To determine your cardiovascular risk, your doctor will consider your cholesterol test results in context with your age, sex and family history. Other risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure, will be considered as well. If your risk remains uncertain, and treatment options are unclear, your healthcare professional may consider other factors and/or request a coronary artery calcium measurement to provide greater insight into your risk and help in decision-making.
Medications For High Triglycerides
If you also have high triglycerides, your doctor might prescribe:
Fibrates. The medications fenofibrate and gemfibrozil reduce your liver’s production of very-low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and speed the removal of triglycerides from your blood. VLDL cholesterol contains mostly triglycerides.
Using fibrates with a stain can increase the risk of statin side effects.
- Niacin. Niacin limits your liver’s ability to produce LDL and VLDL cholesterol. But niacin doesn’t provide additional benefits over statins. Niacin has also been linked to liver damage and strokes, so most doctors now recommend it only for people who can’t take statins.
Omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements can help lower your triglycerides. They are available by prescription or over-the-counter.
If you choose to take over-the-counter supplements, get your doctor’s OK. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements could affect other medications you’re taking.
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