High cholesterol nearly doubles your risk of developing heart disease, but there’s good news — you can prevent high cholesterol by catching it at an early stage and taking steps to lower your levels. The skilled team at Midwest Regional Health Services in Omaha, Nebraska, offers comprehensive care for cholesterol problems, beginning with a lifestyle plan that can lower cholesterol without medication. To have your cholesterol checked, call the office or schedule an appointment online.
There’s only one type of dietary cholesterol, but the cholesterol you consume becomes good or bad once it’s inside your body. Since it’s a fat, cholesterol can’t go straight into your bloodstream. During digestion, your body wraps cholesterol in proteins that can carry it through your blood.
These cholesterol packages, called lipoproteins, determine whether the cholesterol is good or bad based on the ratio of cholesterol to protein:
LDLs are bad for your health because they stay in your bloodstream, where the cholesterol has an opportunity to get stuck on artery walls.
HDLs are called good cholesterol because they collect excess cholesterol and carry it to your liver, where it’s eliminated from your body.
When your total cholesterol and LDL levels are too high, you’re at risk of developing atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis begins when cholesterol sticks to a damaged area of an artery wall, creating a clump of fats called plaque.
As plaque continues to collect fats and hardens, it gradually gets large enough to restrict blood flow. Atherosclerosis causes:
Loss of blood flow due to plaque deprives tissues of oxygen and nutrients, leading to wounds and tissue death. When blood flow is completely blocked, or if a piece of plaque breaks off and travels to your heart or brain, you can suffer a heart attack or stroke.
High cholesterol seldom causes symptoms. Plaque can build-up for years without giving you a clue it’s there. Unfortunately, that means the first sign of high cholesterol is often a heart attack or stroke. The only way to know you have a problem is with routine blood testing that shows your cholesterol levels.
The first line of treatment for high cholesterol includes dietary changes, getting more exercise, and losing weight. In many cases, these lifestyle steps are all you need to lower your cholesterol to an acceptable level.
If lifestyle changes fail to reach the goal, or your cholesterol is already too high for lifestyle steps to help, your provider at Midwest Regional Health Services prescribes one of several possible medications that lower cholesterol.
To learn if you’re at risk for high cholesterol, call Midwest Regional Health Services or schedule an appointment online.