Track Your Cholesterol With Each Blood Donation
Each time you donate blood you will get an overall non-fasting cholesterol screening during your pre-donation wellness check-up. About 36 hours after your donation you can get your cholesterol results through the OneBlood Donor Portal. This can help you monitor your overall cholesterol number and alert you if your cholesterol is high, indicating you may need to check-in with your doctor. Schedule your donation today.
High Cholesterol: The Big Picture
When the body’s metabolism the process by which the body turns food into energy is affected by a health problem, cholesterol levels in the blood are often affected, too. Figuring out the best way to treat high cholesterol starts with understanding why it’s happening identifying other health problems is a primary consideration.
“When we see people who come in for assessment of an elevated form of LDL cholesterol or triglycerides, we always want to look for associated metabolic abnormalities,” says cardiologist Stephen J. Nicholls, PhD, professor of cardiology at the University of Adelaide in Australia.
High cholesterol treatment is about “managing not just one risk factor in our patients, but the whole picture,” says Dr. Nicholls. “It’s often important to keep that in mind when you’re looking at a patient and their cholesterol levels.”
What Can Affect My Ldl Level
Things that can affect your LDL level include:
- Diet. Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat make your blood cholesterol level rise
- Weight. Being overweight tends to raise your LDL level, lower your HDL level, and increase your total cholesterol level
- Physical Activity. A lack of physical activity can lead to weight gain, which can raise your LDL level
- Smoking.Cigarette smoking lowers your HDL cholesterol. Since HDL helps to remove LDL from your arteries, if you have less HDL, that can contribute to you having a higher LDL level.
- Age and Sex. As women and men get older, their cholesterol levels rise. Before the age of menopause, women have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After the age of menopause, womenâs LDL levels tend to rise.
- Genetics. Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High cholesterol can run in families. For example, familial hypercholesterolemia is an inherited form of high blood cholesterol.
- Medicines. Certain medicines, including steroids, some blood pressure medicines, and HIV/AIDS medicines, can raise your LDL level.
- Other medical conditions. Diseases such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS can cause a higher LDL level.
- Race. Certain races may have an increased risk of high blood cholesterol. For example, African Americans typically have higher HDL and LDL cholesterol levels than whites.
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Factors Other Than Food Can Raise Cholesterol Levels
If you dont eat much of those foods above, its probably not food causing your high cholesterol levels.
There are many other factors that can affect cholesterol production drastically. To make things worse, most of them increase LDL the most.
Heres a list of the most common non-food causes of high cholesterol:
- Genetic factors Inherited conditions like familial hypercholesterolemia can lead to very high LDL levels.
- Obesity Excess fat can almost double the amount of cholesterol you produce.
- Diabetes Strongly associated with high LDL levels.
- Liver or kidney disease Certain diseases are intertwined with high cholesterol. Although in many cases the high cholesterol is the one affecting the disease.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome People with this syndrome often have low HDL cholesterol.
- Pregnancy Many hormone levels change, and that often leads to higher cholesterol production than usual. It also often causes pregnancy insomnia.
- Underactive thyroid gland Another issue linked to increased cholesterol.
- Drugs Certain drugs like steroids and progestins can increase LDL and lower HDL.
As you can see there are many factors other than diet that can affect cholesterol levels.
What Can Raise My Risk Of High Cholesterol
A variety of things can raise your risk for high cholesterol:
- Age. Your cholesterol levels tend to rise as you get older. Even though it is less common, younger people, including children and teens, can also have high cholesterol.
- Heredity. High blood cholesterol can run in families.
- Weight. Being overweight or having obesity raises your cholesterol level.
- Race. Certain races may have an increased risk of high cholesterol. For example, African Americans typically have higher HDL and LDL cholesterol levels than whites.
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Diets High In Calories Carbs And Fats
Triglyceride levels increase with a positive energy-intake balance . In other words, when you eat more than your body needs, the surplus is transformed into fat, including triglycerides. Its easier to overeat when your diet is high in calories and contains lots of carbs and saturated fats .
Low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets are among the most common causes of high triglycerides. But wait we said that high-fat diets are bad, so doesnt that mean a low-fat diet should be beneficial? Not quite .
Saturated, unhealthy fats are bad. But your body needs healthy fats such as those found in olive oil and fish oil to keep your triglyceride levels normal and to maintain your overall health. If you dont get enough dietary fats, your body will revert to transforming the sugars you consume into fats .
This goes against the popular but unfounded belief that your body wont store fat as long as you dont eat fats. In truth, high-carbohydrate diets can be much worse than high-fat diets for your triglyceride levels. Many scientists advocate that high-carb, low-fat diets likely also contributed to the obesity epidemic in America over the past few decades .
Causes Of High Cholesterol Blood Levels In The Body
The body gets its cholesterol from two sources:
- The liver produces 80 percent of the body requirement. In hypercholesterolemia due to hereditary causes, the liver produces more of cholesterol,
- The balance 20 percent comes from the foods that you eat.
High levels are, therefore, caused either by overproduction by the liver or excess consumption from the high-fat foods that you eat.
Besides these, there are other nondietary causes and risk factors why you can get abnormal levels. They are explained here:
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How Can I Lower My Ldl Level
There are two main ways to lower your LDL cholesterol:
- Therapeutic lifestyle changes . TLC includes three parts:
- Heart-healthy eating. A heart-healthy eating plan limits the amount of saturated and trans fats that you eat. Examples of eating plans that can lower your cholesterol include the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet and the DASH eating plan.
- Weight Management. If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your LDL cholesterol.
- Physical Activity. Everyone should get regular physical activity .
- Drug Treatment. If lifestyle changes alone do not lower your cholesterol enough, you may also need to take medicines. There are several types of cholesterol-lowering drugs available, including statins. The medicines work in different ways and can have different side effects. Talk to your health care provider about which one is right for you. While you are taking medicines to lower your cholesterol, you still should continue with the lifestyle changes.
Some people with familial hypercholesterolemia may receive a treatment called lipoprotein apheresis. This treatment uses a filtering machine to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood. Then the machine returns the rest of the blood back to the person.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
High Cholesterol Foods Which To Eat Which To Avoid
Cholesterol is arguably one of the most misunderstood substances.
For decades, people avoided healthy yet cholesterol-rich foods such as eggs, fearing that these foods would increase their risk of heart disease.
However, recent research shows that, for most people, eating healthy high cholesterol foods is not harmful to health. Whats more, some cholesterol-rich foods are loaded with important nutrients that are lacking in many peoples diets.
This article explains why cholesterol in foods shouldnt be feared and lists 7 healthy high cholesterol foods and 4 to avoid.
Here are 7 high cholesterol foods that are incredibly nutritious.
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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 âmini strokeâ
- 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 bloodâs cholesterol level increases. This can cause pain in your chest or arm during stress or physical activity .
Myth: All Cholesterol Is Bad For You
Fact: Some types of cholesterol are essential for good health. Your body needs cholesterol to perform important jobs, such as making hormones and building cells. Cholesterol travels through the blood on proteins called lipoproteins. Two types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout the body:
- LDL , sometimes called bad cholesterol, makes up most of your bodys cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol raise your risk for heart disease and stroke.
- HDL , or good cholesterol, carries cholesterol back to the liver. The liver then flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL cholesterol can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.
When your body has too much LDL cholesterol, it can build up in the walls of your blood vessels. This buildup is called plaque. As your blood vessels build up plaque over time, the insides of the vessels narrow. This narrowing can restrict and eventually block blood flow to and from your heart and other organs. When blood flow to the heart is blocked, it can cause angina or a heart attack.
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Ldl Cholesterol: Bad Cholesterol
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, often referred to as bad cholesterol, is the type that tends to deposit on the walls of the arteries. White blood cells combine with the LDL cholesterol, forming artery-narrowing plaque, which restricts blood flow. The optimal level of LDL cholesterol for most people is 100 mg/dL or lower. If you have heart disease, you may need to strive for LDL levels of 70 mg/dL or lower.
If Changing Your Diet Doesnt Work There Are Medications To Treat High Cholesterol
While it is always preferable to use lifestyle changes to treat a health condition, sometimes its necessary to consider medication. If someone is unsuccessful in changing their diet, or if the changes do not lower their cholesterol, there are many drugs that can be used to help.
Cholesterol drugs such as statins or PCSK9 inhibitors require a prescription from your doctor. Once you start taking one of these drugs, your doctor will monitor your blood tests to see if the drugs are working. Once there is a reduction in your cholesterol, you will not need to have your blood tested as often. One final point, though, you must continue taking these medications for your entire life. If you stop taking them, your cholesterol will go back to the same level as before treatment.
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High Cholesterol Causes And Risk Factors
What causes LDL cholesterol to be high? As with high blood pressure, high cholesterol is mostly related to lifestyle and dietary habits that are in your control to change for the better.
There are many factors that can affect your cholesterol levels, including:
- The foods you eat, especially those high in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sugar
- Genetics, since high cholesterol tends to run in families
- Age, as cholesterol levels tend to go up over time
- Being overweight
- Being sedentary and lack of physical activity
- Other medical conditions, such as liver, kidney, and thyroid disease
What Causes Hdl To Drop
- Diet. Eating a diet that is low infruits and vegetables and high in trans fats, processed meats and refinedcarbohydrates like sugar all negatively affect HDL levels.
- Exercise. A sedentary lifestyle whereyou dont get enough exercise also has a negative effect.
- Obesity. Having high body weight isanother factor that seems to negatively affect HDL levels.
- Smoking. Smoking has also been shownto decrease HDL levels.
- High blood sugar and blood pressure.Poor management of both of these cardiovascular issues can also pose problemsfor your HDL cholesterol levels.
The Mayo Clinic also notes that certain medications, such as those containing testosterone or anabolic steroids, can lower HDL levels.
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How Can I Lower My Cholesterol
Talk with your healthcare provider about the best way to lower your cholesterol. Some people only need some simple lifestyle changes like eating less saturated fat. Others need lifestyle changes plus medication. People with medical conditions that affect their cholesterol may need a more complex approach. Talk with your provider about your medical history, family history and lifestyle factors. Together, youll come up with a plan for lowering your cholesterol numbers.
Remember that even the best plans take time to work. And we all have setbacks. Its OK to struggle, and its also OK to tell your provider when a plan isnt working. Sometimes even the strictest lifestyle changes dont lower your cholesterol numbers enough. Thats because most of your bodys cholesterol is produced by your liver. So, many other factors come into play that are out of your control and have nothing to do with whats on your dinner plate.
Take things one step at a time, and remember that having high cholesterol isnt a personal failure. Its a result of many small changes quietly happening inside your body. Take control of what you can, but know that medications and other medical interventions are there to fill in the gaps.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/24/2022.
When Should My Cholesterol Levels Be Tested
Your GP may recommend that you have your blood cholesterol levels tested if you:
- have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, stroke or mini stroke , or peripheral arterial disease
- have a family history of early cardiovascular disease
- have a close family member who has a cholesterol-related condition
- are overweight
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Causes Of High Triglycerides
A study that looked at 5.6k people who participated in a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that about one-third of US adults had high triglyceride levels .
A similar study of 5.6k people found that only about 2% of adults experienced extremely high levels , the leading cause of pancreas inflammation in the US .
High triglyceride levels can be caused by lifestyle and dietary factors, genetics, and other diseases .
On a mechanistic level, triglycerides will rise too much if :
- Your liver is producing too much triglyceride-dense VLDL cholesterol
- Your diet is excessive and unhealthy
- You have low lipoprotein lipase activity, which is the enzyme that breaks down triglycerides
All the potential causes outlined below affect one or more of these conditions.
Causes listed below are commonly associated with high triglycerides. Work with your doctor or another health care professional to get an accurate diagnosis.
Can High Cholesterol Be Prevented Or Avoided
Making healthy food choices and exercising are two ways to reduce your risk of developing high cholesterol.
Eat fewer foods with saturated fats . Choose healthier fats. This includes lean meats, avocados, nuts, and low-fat dairy items. Avoid foods that contain trans fat . Look for foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These foods include salmon, herring, walnuts, and almonds. Some egg brands contain omega-3.
Exercise can be simple. Go for a walk. Take a yoga class. Ride your bike to work. You could even participate in a team sport. Aim to get 30 minutes of activity every day.
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Ruling Out Secondary Causes Of High Cholesterol And Triglycerides
If your doctor rules out the other causes of raised cholesterol and triglycerides listed above, then the next step is to look for other possible explanations. These include inherited causes. Tell-tale signs of inherited high cholesterol or triglyceride include:
- close family members with high cholesterol or high triglyceride
- early heart disease in close family members
- an inherited blood fat condition in close family members.
There are over 100 genes that can affect how our bodies handle blood fats. Sometimes just one small change in a gene is enough to raise cholesterol or triglycerides to very high levels. Sometime inheriting a number of genes that each have a small effect can add up to cause problems.
Inherited conditions that cause high cholesterol and triglycerides
Familial Hypercholesterolaemia raised cholesterol caused by a single gene
Familial Chylomicronaemia triglyceride levels can be extremely high, caused by a single gene
Familial Combined Hyperlipidaemia this causes raised cholesterol and triglycerides
Type 3 Hyperlipidaemia this also causes raised cholesterol and triglycerides
Polygenic Hypercholesterolaemia raised cholesterol caused by a number of genes
Why Is My Cholesterol So High
- Kingâs Daughters Health
Your cholesterol levels are determined by a number of things, some that you can control, and some that you cannot.
Those you cant do anything about include genetics, age and gender. High blood cholesterol can run in families, so your high cholesterol may be something handed down to you. However, the chance that your high cholesterol is due solely to family genetics is remote. Blood cholesterol levels typically start to increase beginning around the age of 20 and continue to rise until age 60 or 65. Before age 50, men usually have higher cholesterol levels. After age 50, or menopause, women have higher LDL levels.
Things you can do to control cholesterol levels:
- Watch what you eat. Diets that include a lot of saturated fat trans fats and cholesterol may raise your blood cholesterol levels. Of the three, saturated fats have the greatest impact on LDL levels.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight increases your LDL cholesterol levels decreases HDL cholesterol and raises triglycerides.
- Get active. A sedentary lifestyle can raise LDL and lower HDL. Regular physical activity can help you lose weight and thus improve your LDL-HDL ratio.
Know your cholesterol profile
Managing cholesterol and triglyceride levels is essential to ensuring good heart and vascular health. Kings Daughters cardiologists offer appointments within 48 hours at their offices in Ashland Portsmouth and Prestonsburg .
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