Cholesterol is an essential compound that your body needs to create healthy cells. However, high cholesterol levels can be problematic. It can lead to complications like heart disease, stroke, peripheral artery disease, high blood pressure, and many others. At Highland Family Medicine, we have treated thousands of patients in Murfreesboro, TN, for years. With us, you’ll have the holistic care you deserve, from medication to self-care advice to bring your cholesterol levels down to normal.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood’s fats (lipids). While cholesterol is essential to continue building healthy cells, having high cholesterol can pose several health problems, including an increased risk of heart disease.
When you have high cholesterol, you may develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits become thick enough, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Your heart may not get as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs, which increases the risk of a heart attack. Decreased blood flow to your brain can cause a stroke.
You may inherit high cholesterol, but most cases result from unhealthy lifestyle choices, making it preventable and treatable. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and medication (if needed) can go a long way toward reducing high cholesterol.
How Are You Diagnosed With High Cholesterol
For an accurate diagnosis, you will take a cholesterol test or screening. This test will require a simple blood draw. The test will measure your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, which is responsible for the obstruction buildup in your blood vessels that may lead to a stroke or heart attack.
If your total cholesterol level is between 200 and 239 mg/dL, it is considered “borderline high.” That means you are now on the verge of having hyperlipidemia (lifestyle changes are a must at this stage). So 240 mg/dL and above means you have high cholesterol and require medication and lifestyle changes.
If your LDL (bad cholesterol) is between 130 and 159 mg/dL, it is considered “borderline high.” If it’s 160 mg/dL or higher, you also have high cholesterol, even if your overall cholesterol level did not reach 240 mg/dL.
High cholesterol typically doesn’t cause any symptoms. In most cases, it only causes emergency events. For instance, a heart attack or stroke can result from the damage caused by high cholesterol.
These emergencies typically don’t occur until high cholesterol leads to plaque formation (cholesterol buildup) in your arteries. Plaque from high cholesterol can narrow arteries so less blood can pass through. The formation of plaque changes the makeup of your arterial lining. This change could lead to serious complications.
A blood test is the only way to know if your cholesterol is too high. That means having a total blood cholesterol level above 240 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
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 check your cholesterol more frequently if you have a family history of high cholesterol. Or if you demonstrate the following risk factors:
Other Medical Conditions That Raise Your Risk of High Cholesterol
Consult your physician on your risk for high cholesterol if you have any of the following conditions:
In patients with lupus and HIV, the disease itself and the medication used to treat it may contribute to high cholesterol levels.
High cholesterol can cause plaque to build up in your arteries if left untreated. Over time, this plaque can narrow your arteries. This condition is known as atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a serious condition. It can limit the flow of blood through your arteries. It also raises your risk of developing dangerous blood clots.
Atherosclerosis can result in many life-threatening complications, such as:
High cholesterol can also create a bile imbalance, raising your risk of gallstones. See the other ways that high cholesterol can impact your body.
High cholesterol can be lowered or prevented in two ways. One is through medication, and the other is through lifestyle change. Therapists or family doctors may prescribe either of the two options or a mix of both.
Medications for High Cholesterol
Statins are the most commonly prescribed medications for high cholesterol. They block your liver from producing more cholesterol.
Examples of statins include:
Your doctor may also prescribe other medications for high cholesterol, such as:
Some products contain a combination of drugs to help decrease your body’s absorption of cholesterol from foods and reduce your liver’s production of cholesterol. One example is a combination of ezetimibe and simvastatin (Vytorin).
Lowering Cholesterol levels Through Diet
To help you achieve and maintain healthy cholesterol levels, our family doctors at Highland Family Medicine may recommend changes to your diet.
For example, they may advise you to:
Foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, or trans fats include:
Eating fish and other foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids may also help lower your LDL levels. For example, salmon, mackerel, and herring are rich sources of omega-3s. Walnuts, almonds, ground flax seeds, and avocados also contain omega-3s.
Treatment for high cholesterol involves self-care, healthy food choices, and exercise. However, you will need medication for more severe cases where complications and more symptoms have started to show up. It is also essential for older adults ages 65 and older to get cholesterol screenings yearly.
Highland Family Medicine offers wellness screening to see if you have high cholesterol. We help residents of Murfreesboro, TN, stay healthy through actionable medical advice and medication for those struggling with familial hypercholesterolemia (inherited high cholesterol) with statin therapy. Before you develop any complications, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with us. Dr. Helton, Dr. Housden, Dr. Hardin, and the rest of the team are here to provide you with the best treatment for high cholesterol.
Highland Family Medicine and its doctors, Dr. Helton, Dr. Housden, and Dr. Hardin, have been serving and treating the community of Murfreesboro, TN, and surrounding areas for over two decades.
Collectively, they have treated more than 20,000 patients. Highland Family Medicine specializes in comprehensive health care for people of all ages, treating most ailments and non-emergencies.
Please don’t hesitate to call the Highland Family Medicine doctor’s office. Dr. Helton, Dr. Housden, and Dr. Hardin are professionals and ready to serve.