More than 30% of adults in the United States have unhealthy cholesterol levels, but fewer than half receive treatment. While you may know that having high cholesterol can increase your risk of developing heart disease, you may not know that the risk is nearly double the amount that’s carried by people with healthy cholesterol levels. At CardioHealth in Jacksonville, Florida, board-certified cardiologist Ramon Castello MD, FACC, FASE provides long-term treatment solutions, including help making heart-healthy lifestyle changes for patients with high cholesterol. To learn more, call or book an appointment online today.
Cholesterol is an essential substance that your body uses to produce healthy cells. The waxy material is also present in the fats that circulate in your blood. The two different types of cholesterol that flow freely in your blood are categorized by how they behave:
Also known as “good” cholesterol, HDL cholesterol picks up excess blood cholesterol and carries it back to your liver for processing.
Also known as “bad” cholesterol, LDL carries cholesterol throughout your body, where it builds up on the walls of your arteries and makes them hard and inflexible.
Having high cholesterol means that Dr. Castello has consistently diagnosed you with higher than normal levels of LDL, or bad, cholesterol. For most people, high cholesterol is the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices combined with genetic factors that make them prone to developing the problem.
Smoking is one of the worst things you can do. Besides increasing your LDL cholesterol level, tobacco use also decreases your HDL, or good cholesterol levels. Eating a diet that’s high in saturated fats or trans fats can increase your LDL cholesterol levels, while leading a sedentary lifestyle can decrease your HDL cholesterol levels.
If high cholesterol runs in your family, you may carry a genetic mutation that makes it harder for your body to clear LDL cholesterol from your blood.
For some people, certain medical conditions may contribute to the problem — kidney disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and obesity are all associated with high cholesterol.
Because there are no outward signs or symptoms of high cholesterol, the only way to diagnose it is by having a blood test. Your cholesterol levels are assessed with a lipid panel, which is a fasting blood test that requires you to avoid all food and liquids, other than water, for at least nine hours before your blood is drawn.
Healthy cholesterol levels are:
For people with heart disease or diabetes, the desirable range for LDL cholesterol is below 70 mg/dL.
Unhealthy cholesterol levels are:
High cholesterol is a highly treatable problem that usually responds well to a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.
If your cholesterol levels aren’t too high, or if you don’t have other risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, you may be able to focus on lifestyle adjustments first to see if you can reduce your cholesterol levels without medication.
This includes following a nutritious, whole-foods based diet that’s low in total fat, saturated fat, and added sugars. Other beneficial lifestyle changes include quitting smoking, managing your stress levels, increasing your physical activity, and losing weight, if necessary.
If your cholesterol levels are dangerously high, or if your body doesn’t respond to lifestyle interventions quickly enough, Dr. Castello may recommend medication.
Statins, which Dr. Castello might prescribe alongside bile acid-binding resins, can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. Cholesterol absorption inhibitors help reduce the amount of cholesterol you absorb from your diet, while injectable medications prompt your liver to absorb more LDL cholesterol.
To learn more about how you can achieve healthy cholesterol levels, call or book an appointment online today.