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What Happens If Cholesterol Is Too High

Maintain A Normal Weight

What is Cholesterol?

Having a BMI in the overweight or obese range highly correlates with having excess body fat, which in turn can affect how your body processes cholesterol. Excess body fat also slows down the ability to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood, raising your levels and increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Can I Live Long With High Cholesterol

Untreated or undertreated high cholesterol is associated with a lower life span due to the risk of heart attack and stroke, but its still possible to live a long life with high cholesterol, provided you follow a heart-healthy lifestyle and take medication if needed. According to a study published in April 2018 in the journal Circulation, a healthy lifestyle defined as not smoking, doing moderate exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and following a healthy diet was associated with an average of 14 more years of life for women and 12 for men.

Additional reporting by Erica Patino

Heredity Can Play A Role

Some people inherit genes from their mother, father or even grandparents that cause them to have too much cholesterol. This is called familial hypercholesterolemia . The severity of FH is related to the duration and degree of LDL cholesterol in the blood. FH is dangerous because it can cause premature atherosclerotic heart disease.

If you have a family history of FH or problems related to high cholesterol, get your levels checked.

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How Serious Is Hyperlipidemia

Hyperlipidemia can be very serious if its not controlled. As long as high cholesterol is untreated, youre letting plaque accumulate inside your blood vessels. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke because your blood has a hard time getting through your blood vessels. This deprives your brain and heart of the nutrients and oxygen they need to function. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Americans.

Raising Good Hdl Cholesterol:

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At the same time cardiologists tell patients to lower LDL-C, they encourage them to raise good high-density lipoprotein cholesterol . This dates back a long way to the Framingham Heart Study.

In 1948 Framingham, Massachusetts was the location for a huge study of heart disease. Over 5,000 residents were recruited and followed for decades. Researchers are now studying the fourth generation of these participants. Here is what they discovered about HDL cholesterol :

HDL-C modulates lipid metabolism and the process of atherosclerosis through a variety of pathways. These include reverse cholesterol transport, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. HDL-C has been found to be a more important risk predictor for CVD than LDL-C, total cholesterol, or triglycerides in the Framingham Heart Study.

Other research has also confirmed that higher levels of HDL cholesterol are linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease . HDL-C appears to have beneficial anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and vasodilating effects .

The CDC describes the Yin-Yang of HDL and LDL cholesterol this way:

  • 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, absorbs cholesterol and carries it 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.

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What Kind Of Test Measures Cholesterol

Everyone over the age of 20 should get their cholesterol levels measured at least once every five years. Your healthcare provider will order a blood test that will indicate how much cholesterol is carried in your bloodstream. This test will give your cholesterol levels. Your provider might also order what is called a lipid panel or a lipid profile. The panel gives you the following numbers:

  • Total cholesterol.
  • Non-HDL cholesterol.
  • Ratio between cholesterol and HDL.

There are advanced tests that break down the size and shapes of LDL cholesterol levels, and also give the LDL particle number, but those are not normally ordered. Some test makers say that the more advanced tests are better at indicating who is at risk for heart disease, but most providers still feel that the usual tests are adequate.

Who Should 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
  • are over the age of 40 people over 40 should have their estimate of CVD risk reviewed regularly
  • have a family history of early cardiovascular disease for example, if your father or brother developed heart disease or had a heart attack or stroke before the age of 55, or if your mother or sister had these conditions before the age of 65
  • have a close family member who has a cholesterol-related condition, such as familial hypercholesterolaemia
  • are overweight or obese
  • have high blood pressure or diabetes
  • have another medical condition, such as kidney disease, an underactive thyroid, or an inflamed pancreas these conditions can cause increased levels of cholesterol or triglycerides

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What Are The Different Types Of Cholesterol

There are two main categories of cholesterol in the blood:

Low-density lipoprotein : Considered cholesterols bad form, LDL enables cholesterol to create deposits that build up and harden on the walls of blood vessels a condition called atherosclerosis .

When this happens in the coronary arteries , it reduces your hearts supply of oxygen-rich blood. This serious condition, called coronary artery disease, can cause heart attacks and even death.

Plaques can also form on the arteries that supply blood to your brain, abdomen, arms, and legs, leading to a higher risk of stroke, intestinal damage, and peripheral arterial disease.

High-density lipoprotein : HDL is the good kind of cholesterol, because it helps reduce LDL levels.

The role of HDL is to transport LDL cholesterol to your liver, which removes it from your blood.

What Are Early Signs Of Fh

5 Warning Signs Your Cholesterol Is Too High

When you have FH, early detection of high cholesterol levels is key to getting the treatment that can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition to family history of early cardiovascular problems, you may also notice lumps forming under your skin.

These fatty deposits are called xanthomas, and are particularly noticeable around tendons in the hands, knees, Achilles tendons and elbows, and under the skin around your eyes. Sometimes an ophthalmologist may spot signs of cholesterol deposits in your eyes as well.

Whether or not you have obvious signs of high cholesterol, you should get checked if heart disease runs in your family. Talk to your family doctor about your concerns a simple blood test is all it takes to see if your cholesterol levels are in the healthy range. A high cholesterol level at a young age is a particular red flag that you may have FH. If your doctor suspects you have the condition, you can undergo genetic testing to confirm the diagnosis.

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Good And Bad Cholesterol

A big part of understanding cholesterol is knowing the different types.

To move cholesterol through your blood, your liver makes lipoproteins, a combination of fat and proteins that carries cholesterol through your bloodstream. There are two major forms of lipoprotein: low-density and high-density .

High-density lipoprotein is sometimes called good cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein is called bad cholesterol. Too much LDL in your blood leads to a high cholesterol diagnosis and is associated with numerous health issues, including heart attack and stroke.

Can High Cholesterol Cause A Stroke

Yes, if you have high cholesterol, youre at risk of stroke due to the excess cholesterol circulating in your blood, according to the AHA.

LDL builds up in your arteries, where it slows or blocks the flow of oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to your body, including your brain. As arteries narrow and stiffen, blood clots may form a blockage, which can cause a stroke if it travels to the brain.

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and one of the main causes of disability, according to the American Stroke Association. But it can be mostly preventable keeping your cholesterol levels down is one way to cut your risk.

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Triglycerides A Different Type Of Lipid

Triglycerides are another type of lipid. Theyre different from cholesterol. While your body uses cholesterol to build cells and certain hormones, it uses triglycerides as a source of energy.

When you eat more calories than your body can use right away, it converts those calories into triglycerides. It stores triglycerides in your fat cells. It also uses lipoproteins to circulate triglycerides through your bloodstream.

If you regularly eat more calories than your body can use, your triglyceride levels can get high. This may raise your risk of several health problems, including heart disease and stroke.

Your doctor can use a simple blood test to measure your triglyceride level, as well as your cholesterol levels. Learn how to get your triglyceride level tested.

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What You Dont Know Can Hurt You

Everything You Need To Know About High Cholesterol ...

One of the things thats most dangerous about having high cholesterol is that youre unlikely to know it without a blood test. That means you could be living with an increased risk of heart attack or stroke and have no idea.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends having your cholesterol checked at least every five years. If your total cholesterol reaches over 200 mg/dL, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes or more frequent screenings.

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Why Is Cholesterol Important To Our Bodies

Every cell in the body needs cholesterol, which helps the cell membranes form the layers. These layers protect the contents of the cell by acting as the gatekeeper to what things can enter or leave the cell. It is made by the liver and is also used by the liver to make bile, which helps you digest foods. Cholesterol is also needed to make certain hormones and to produce vitamin D. Your liver makes enough cholesterol to meet your bodys needs for these important functions.

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Medications To Treat High Cholesterol

For most people who need medication to manage high cholesterol, doctors will prescribe statins. Statins, also known as HMG CoA reductase inhibitors, are a class of drugs that prevent cholesterol from forming in the liver, where both LDL and HDL cholesterol are made. This lowers the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood. They are most effective at lowering LDL cholesterol but can also lower triglycerides and HDL cholesterol.

If you have certain conditions, or if statins arent working to decrease your high cholesterol sufficiently, your doctor may prescribe one of these other cholesterol-lowering medications:

  • PCSK9 Inhibitors A newer type of medicine, PCSK9 inhibitors bind to and inactivate a protein on certain liver cells, which then lowers LDL cholesterol. Administered by injection, they are often used in patients with high cholesterol that doesnt respond to statins or people with familial hypercholesterolemia.
  • Selective Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors The most commonly used nonstatin agent, according to the AHA, selective cholesterol absorption inhibitors prevent cholesterol from being absorbed in the intestine. This means less cholesterol is delivered to the liver and, ultimately, the blood.
  • Bile Acid Sequestrants Also known as bile-acid-binding agents, these drugs work by removing bile acids from the liver. Since LDL cholesterol is needed to make bile acids, the body then breaks down more LDL cholesterol particles.

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Myth: I Would Be Able To Feel It If I Had High Cholesterol

Fact: High cholesterol usually has no signs or symptoms. You may not know you have unhealthy cholesterol levels until it is too latewhen you have a heart attack or stroke. Thats why its so important to get your cholesterol levels checked at least every 5 years.1,2 Learn more about getting your cholesterol checked.

Occasionally, some people develop yellowish growths on their skin called xanthomas, which are cholesterol-rich deposits. People with xanthomas may have high cholesterol levels.

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
  • are over the age of 40 people over 40 should have their estimate of CVD risk reviewed regularly
  • have a family history of early cardiovascular disease for example, if your father or brother developed heart disease or had a heart attack or stroke before the age of 55, or if your mother or sister had these conditions before the age of 65
  • have a close family member who has a cholesterol-related condition, such as familial hypercholesterolaemia
  • are overweight or obese
  • have high blood pressure or diabetes
  • have another medical condition, such as kidney disease, an underactive thyroid, or an inflamed pancreas these conditions can cause increased levels of cholesterol or triglycerides

Hdl Cholesterol Or Good Cholesterol

5 Warning Signs Your Cholesterol Is Too High

HDL cholesterol is sometimes called good cholesterol. It helps return LDL cholesterol to your liver to be removed from your body. This helps prevent cholesterol plaque from building up in your arteries.

When you have healthy levels of HDL cholesterol, it can help lower your risk of blood clots, heart disease, and stroke.

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Taking Care Of Your Cholesterol

The best way to keep cholesterol levels in check is by sticking to a low-fat diet. In particular, it is important to avoid saturated fat, which are fats from animal sources such as butter or lard, because saturated fats are the main contributor to higher total cholesterol and to high levels of LDL.

With heart-healthy diet changes, it may be possible to reduce cholesterol levels to a normal range or closer to a normal range.

It can be challenging to change years of eating habits. Rather than a complete diet overhaul, you can modify your diet gradually, easing your way into a healthier lifestyle.

For example:

  • Choose food that has been baked, grilled, broiled, or steamed.
  • Ask for sauces on the side.
  • Make vegetables the major part of your meal, rather than meat.
  • Choose lower-fat meats, such as fish, poultry , or lean cuts of red meats.
  • Use spices for flavoring, instead of butter or oils.

The best way to improve HDL is through aerobic exercises, such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, aerobics, or hiking. If fitness is new to your lifestyle, you may need to try several different exercises before finding a plan that works for you. Some people like to exercise at home, whereas others prefer a gym. Some people exercise in the morning and some prefer to exercise later in the evening.

If your doctor prescribes cholesterol-lowering drugs for you, be sure to provide all information about any other medications that you may be taking and to take your medications as directed.

Eating A Lot Of Fatty Foods And Lack Of Exercise

Well admit, this sign seems pretty straightforward, but theres absolutely no denying that eating a lot of fatty foods greatly increases the cholesterol levels in your body. A lack of exercise allows cholesterol to build up in your body. Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking are also highly detrimental. In short, if youre living an unhealthy lifestyle, chances are youre also dealing with high cholesterol.

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Treatment For High Cholesterol

Lifestyle changes are one of the first things your doctor will recommend for managing high cholesterol. All medications can cause side effects, including medications to lower your cholesterol, and many people can successfully lower their cholesterol without them. Your doctor will determine which treatment approach is best for you.

Lifestyle changes that can help lower your cholesterol include:

  • Adenosine triphosphate-citrate lyase inhibitors

The Study That Backfired

#cholesteroltest are sardines high in cholesterol?

Most of the drugs that doctors rely to prevent heart disease do not raise HDL cholesterol appreciably. That is why we suspect they have focused on lowering LDL cholesterol.

Then something strange happened. Along came a drug that does exactly that . Eli Lillys experimental drug evacetrapib was the star in a very large and expensive clinical trial called ACCELERATE. Hopes were high.

The drug was shown to lower LDL cholesterol up to 40 percent and raise HDL cholesterol up to 129 percent. Those are spectacular results and no other medication has been able to accomplish such impressive changes in lipid levels.

Over 12,000 patients were enrolled in this clinical trial at 540 sites in 37 countries. Hundreds of millions of dollars were invested and the expectations were that the drug would revolutionize the treatment of heart disease. Wall Street analysts anticipated that the drug would become a billion dollar blockbuster for Eli Lilly.

All that came to a screeching halt on October 15, 2015 when the clinical trial was stopped prematurely and the company abandoned further development of evacetrapib. Although the drug actually did what it was supposed to do in modifying blood lipids in all the right ways, it did not work to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

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What Is The Difference Between Good Cholesterol And Bad Cholesterol

Good cholesterol is known as high-density lipoprotein . It removes cholesterol from the bloodstream. Low-density lipoprotein is the bad cholesterol.

If your total cholesterol level is high because of a high LDL level, you may be at higher risk of heart disease or stroke. But, if your total cholesterol level is high only because of a high HDL level, youre probably not at higher risk.

Triglycerides are another type of fat in your blood. When you eat more calories than your body can use, it turns the extra calories into triglycerides.

Changing your lifestyle can improve your cholesterol levels, lower LDL and triglycerides, and raise HDL.

Your ideal cholesterol level will depend on your risk for heart disease.

  • Total cholesterol level less than 200 is best, but it depends on your HDL and LDL levels.
  • LDL cholesterol levels less than 130 is best, but this depends on your risk for heart disease.
  • HDL cholesterol levels 60 or higher reduces your risk for heart disease.
  • Triglycerides less than 150 milligrams per deciliter is best.


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