Testing For High Cholesterol
A blood test is the only way to tell if you have high cholesterol. This test is done with a lipid panel that measures the level of different blood fats from a blood sample. These blood fats are triglycerides, non-HDL cholesterol , HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol .
A reference range of values is used to determine whether the various levels are high or low. Abnormal is anything outside the reference value, and normal is anything between the high and low values. Your blood pressure is assessed along with your lipid levels to determine your ten-year risk of heart disease. Your age, weight, and sex are also factored into this assessment.
It is ultimately the relationship between the various values, high and low, that determine if your cholesterol levels are acceptable, if treatment is needed, or how well you are responding to treatment. In the United States, reference ranges in a lipid panel vary by age and sex.
Examples of acceptable lipid panel readings for 19 and under:
- Normal LDL is under 100mg/dL
- Normal HDL 45mg/dL or more
- Total cholesterol under 120mg/dL
Examples for acceptable lipid panel readings for females 20 and over:
- Normal LDL is under 100mg/dL
- Normal HDL 40mg/dL or more
- Total cholesterol between 125 to 200mg/dL
Examples for acceptable lipid panel readings for males 20 and over:
- Normal LDL is under 100mg/dL
- Normal HDL 50mg/dL or more
- Total cholesterol under 130mg/dL
Triglycerides In Your Blood
In addition to cholesterol, your blood also contains a type of fat called triglycerides, which are stored in your bodys fat deposits. Hormones release triglycerides to make energy between meals.
When you eat, your body converts any extra energy it doesnt need right away into triglycerides.
Like cholesterol, your body needs triglycerides to work properly. However, there is evidence to suggest that some people with high triglycerides are at increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
If you regularly eat more energy than you need, you may have high triglycerides .
How Do I Prepare For My Cholesterol Test
If your doctor recommends a “non-fasting” cholesterol test, the lab will look only at your total cholesterol numbers. For that test, you merely need to show up at the lab and have some blood drawn. If your doctor suggests a “fasting” cholesterol test , the lab will analyze your levels of LDL, HDL, triglycerides, and total cholesterol. For that test, you will need to fast nine to 12 hours before the blood test.
Sometimes a doctor will ask you to do a non-fasting cholesterol test first. Depending on the results, they may then send you back for the more complete lipid profile.
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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 trans 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 fat
How To Spot Signs Of High Cholesterol
This article was medically reviewed by . Dr. Litza is a board certified Family Medicine Physician in Wisconsin. She is a practicing Physician and taught as a Clinical Professor for 13 years, after receiving her MD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health in 1998.There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 52,988 times.
High cholesterol rarely presents with visible signs and symptoms. There are rare cases in which there may be physical signs, such as around the eyes and/or over the tendons, but this occurs for the minority of people. Normally, high cholesterol must be screened for and detected via a blood test. If you do in fact get diagnosed with high cholesterol, your doctor can advise you as to an appropriate treatment plan.
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More About The Symptoms Of Cholesterol
The liver is responsible for producing most of the cholesterol in your body, though you can also absorb it from foods that contain cholesterol. The problem is that, even though many organs need it, too much cholesterol causes irreparable damage. In fact, high cholesterol is a potential killer.
The most worrisome thing is that many are unaware that they have it in high quantities since it isnt usually manifested by blunt symptoms.
Consequently, it can lead to the development of more serious health problems, such as arteriosclerosis, hypertension, and kidney failure. Because of this, its very important to identify any signs that could help detect any problems early on.
Signs Of High Cholesterol
Since high cholesterol levels usually do not cause symptoms, it is important to have them checked regularly. The following list describes some signs to watch for that could indicate an increased risk of high cholesterol.
- LDL lipid panel results: This blood test is designed to check your bad cholesterol levels. If you have test results that show LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, levels at 160 mg/dL or higher, your cholesterol is considered high. LDL cholesterol is considered bad cholesterol that raises your risk of complications.
- Total lipid panel results: Your total lipid panel results should ideally be below 200 mg/dL. Having results that are between 200 and 239 mg/dL indicates that you have borderline high cholesterol, while results of 240 mg/dL or higher indicate high cholesterol.
- Obesity and larger waist circumference: If you have a body mass index of 30 or higher, you have an increased chance of having high cholesterol. If your waist circumference is 40 inches or more if you are male or 35 inches or more if you are female, you also have a higher risk of having high cholesterol.
- Diet high in unhealthy fats: Eating a lot of foods that contain trans fats or saturated fats, such as processed foods and animal products, can raise your cholesterol to unhealthy levels.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Working out regularly helps increase the amount of good or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in your blood, while also making LDL cholesterol less dangerous.
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What To Do When High Cholesterol Runs In Your Family
Because high cholesterol doesnt have any symptoms, its not something thats commonly on peoples radar. Even if it is, people often dont take it seriously until they have a heart attack or stroke. And while we tend to think of those events as happening to an older population, people under the age of 55 can also be affected, especially if they were born with high cholesterol.
This condition is called familial hypercholesterolemia . FH is an inherited disorder that makes it harder for your body to remove low-density lipoprotein cholesterol from your blood. The result? From childhood, cholesterol builds up along the walls of your arteries and veins, narrowing the passageways and drastically increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke at a very early age.
Neck Pain And Headaches
Because high cholesterol leads to the blocking of arteries, theres a good chance that the blood flow to and from your head can be disturbed. The result is a sore neck and sudden headaches on an occasional basis, and you might even deal with some pain in your shoulders as well. A nagging headache in the back is a very good indication of excessive cholesterol levels according to doctors.
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Where Should Cholesterol Be Checked
Its best for your primary care doctor to do the test. As noted, your cholesterol levels represent just one of many factors affecting your cardiovascular health. Your primary care physician will have a fuller understanding of your personal and family history, as well as any other risk factors that might apply.
If your cholesterol is checked at a public screening, they may measure your HDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. But if HDL cholesterol isnt measured, knowing your total cholesterol levels still gives you valuable information. Getting your blood cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index and fasting blood sugar measured regularly should be part of your overall personal care plan.
If you obtain cholesterol screening results from a source outside of your doctors office, be sure to share those with your primary care physician. Additional data points help to establish your cardiovascular risk. This is particularly important for people who smoke, have other health conditions such as diabetes or inflammatory conditions, or have a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure or stroke.
Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.
Yellow Rashes On The Eyelids
These yellow rashes are similar to the yellow cholesterol bubbles on your body, but smaller and on this time on your eyelids. The condition is known as xanthelasma. Luckily, it doesnt have any negative effects on your eyesight. Laser and acid treatments are available to get rid of these rash bubbles, but the more effective and permanent solution is just to lower your cholesterol levels altogether.
Please this with your friends and family.
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Are There Any Treatments For High Cholesterol Levels Caused By Genetics
Usually, the first line of treatment for high cholesterol is lifestyle modification, but if you have FH youll need more advanced treatment. Its always important to eat a low-fat diet, exercise and control your weight. Having a healthy lifestyle is crucial for heart health and for overall health, says Martin. However, people with FH could eat an extremely low-fat diet and still not be able to control their cholesterol because theyre genetically unable to handle it. For them, cholesterol is going to build up in the bloodstream regardless of what they eat.
Fortunately, there are medications that can substantially lower LDL cholesterol levels. The most common treatment for FH is statin drug therapy. Statin drugs work by blocking an enzyme that produces cholesterol in the liver and increases your bodys ability to remove cholesterol from the blood. They can lower your LDL cholesterol levels by 50 percent or more. Statins have been safely used to reduce the risk of heart disease for 30 years and continue to be the number one option when it comes to helping people with FH.
Other treatment options include medications that block cholesterol from being absorbed from your intestines into your bloodstream, or drugs that block an enzyme called PCSK9, which reduces the amount of LDL cholesterol in your blood.
Signs And Symptoms Of High Cholesterol
High cholesterol on its own doesn’t usually cause symptoms. People often don’t realize they have high cholesterol until they get tested. However, the complications that high cholesterol causes do. As arteries and other blood vessels narrow and blood flow is slowed or stopped, every part of your body can be affected.
Uncontrolled high cholesterol can lead to the following complications:
- Atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of fatty deposits in your blood vessels
- Carotid artery disease, which is narrowing of the blood vessels in the neck that carry blood from the heart to the brain
- Coronary heart disease, which is damage or disease in the heart’s major blood vessels
- Heart attack
- Peripheral artery disease, which is narrowing or blockage of the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the legs
Symptoms of these complications can include:
- Fatty deposits of cholesterol visible from under the skin called xanthelasmas
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What Are The Symptoms Of High Cholesterol
These events typically dont occur until high cholesterol leads to the formation of plaque in your arteries. Plaque can narrow arteries so less blood can pass through. The formation of plaque changes the makeup of your arterial lining. This could lead to serious complications.
A blood test is the only way to know if your cholesterol is too high. This means having a total blood cholesterol level above 240 milligrams per deciliter . Ask your doctor to give you a cholesterol test after you turn 20 years old. Then get your cholesterol rechecked every 4 to 6 years.
Your doctor may also suggest you have your cholesterol checked more frequently if you have a family history of high cholesterol. Or if you demonstrate the following risk factors:
- have high blood pressure
What Exactly Is Cholesterol
Everyone has cholesterol, a yellowy-white wax-like lipid thats in every cell of your body. Cholesterol keeps your cells and organs working properly. It also plays a major role in hormone, vitamin, and digestive fluid production.
Cholesterol comes from two sources 80 percent is naturally produced by your liver and intestines, and your diet accounts for the last 20 percent.
High cholesterol is a creeper condition it usually doesnt have any symptoms. It can go undetected until you have blood work or a serious health event like a stroke or heart attack.
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Why Should I Lower My Cholesterol
Evidence strongly indicates that high cholesterol can increase the risk of:
- narrowing of the arteries
- transient ischaemic attack often known as a “mini stroke”
- peripheral arterial disease
This is because cholesterol can build up in the artery wall, restricting the blood flow to your heart, brain and the rest of your body. It also increases the risk of a blood clot developing somewhere in your body.
Your risk of developing coronary heart disease also rises as your blood’s cholesterol level increases. This can cause pain in your chest or arm during stress or physical activity .
What Are The Warning Signs Of High Cholesterol
High cholesterol typically doesnt have any symptoms until it is an emergency event. The only way to know if you have a high level of ldl cholesterol is through a blood test. Leaving cholesterol untreated can lead to the buildup of plaque over time, damaging the heart and putting you at risk for a heart attack or stroke. Keep an eye out for heart attack or early stroke symptoms like:
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Myth: I Dont Need Statins Or Other Medicines For My Cholesterol I Can Manage My Cholesterol With Diet And Exercise
Fact: Although many people can achieve good cholesterol levels by making healthy food choices and getting enough physical activity, some people may also need medicines called statins to lower their cholesterol levels. Guidelinesexternal icon also suggest that other medicines in addition to statins may be needed to help control cholesterol.2
People who may need statins or other medicines to manage cholesterol levels include the following:
- People with familial hypercholesterolemia or people with very high levels of bad cholesterol. FH is a genetic condition that causes very high LDL cholesterol levels beginning at a young age. If left untreated, cholesterol levels will continue to get worse. This greatly raises the risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke at a young age.
- People with cardiovascular disease . People with CVD may already have narrowed arteries because of too much plaque. Medicines that lower cholesterol may help reduce the risk for heart attack or stroke.
- People with diabetes.Type 2 diabetes lowers HDL or good cholesterol levels and raises bad cholesterol levels. This combination raises your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Other groups of people may also need medicines to manage their cholesterol, including people who have a high risk for CVD. Always talk to your health care provider about the best ways to manage your cholesterol.
What Are The Treatments For High Cholesterol
Your healthcare provider may recommend treating high cholesterol with lifestyle changes alone or in combination with medications to actively lower your cholesterol level. Lifestyle changes include eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, getting adequate physical exercise, and quitting smoking.
However, you may also need treatment with medications. Your doctor may order further blood tests to analyze specific inflammatory biomarkers and determine your individual need for cholesterol-lowering medication.
Medications used to treat high cholesterol include:
- Bile acid resins or sequestrants, such as cholestyramine and colesevelam , which help your body eliminate or remove cholesterol from the blood
- Ezetimibe , which prevents the absorption of cholesterol from the foods you eat
- Fibrates or fibric acid derivatives, such as fenofibrate and gemfibrozil , which help reduce triglycerides and increase the amount of high-density lipoprotein in your blood
- Niacin or nicotinic acid , which helps your body increase HDL levels while decreasing the amount of low-density lipoprotein levels and triglycerides in your blood
- Statins, such as simvastatin and , which reduce the amount of cholesterol the liver produces
You can help control your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by following the treatment plan you and your healthcare provider design specifically for you
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Recognizing Signs And Symptoms