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October 15, 2014



Why is controlling cholesterol so important?

The main reason that controlling cholesterol has become so important is because elevated levels of cholesterol have been associated with increased risk of vascular disease. When cholesterol is high, you have a greater risk of developing plaques and “blockages” in your arteries. If the blockage becomes significant this causes symptoms of vascular disease. Vascular diseases include (among others) heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease (PVD).


What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is made by your liver as a means to transport fats throughout your body. These fats are a necessary part of your body functions. We need some of these fats as building blocks for your cells. However, too much is not a good thing.


I’ve heard of good cholesterol. What does this mean?

Total cholesterol levels are important but there are many types of cholesterol. The main ones that are evaluated include triglycerides, LDL (also known as the “bad cholesterol”) and HDL (also known as the “good cholesterol”). HDL cholesterol actually provides some decrease of cardiovascular risk.


What are the other risk factors for cardiovascular disease?

Other risk factors for vascular disease include male gender or women after menopause, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and family history of early cardiovascular disease.


Why does cholesterol go up?

Cholesterol becomes elevated because of two possible reasons. One is genetics and the other is lifestyle. In terms of the lifestyle aspect of this, the main cause of elevated cholesterol is inappropriate diet, physical inactivity, and smoking.


What should my cholesterol be?

This depends on if you have other risk factors for vascular disease. Total LDL as well as the ratio of LDL and HDL is important. Of course, any goals for ideal cholesterol should be based on an individual evaluation and customized based on your medical history.


Who should get their cholesterol checked?

The current recommendations of the US Preventive Services Task Force is for people to get their cholesterol checked on the basis of age and risk factors. The more risk factors you have and the higher your age, the more important it is to get your cholesterol checked. Again, the decision to check your cholesterol is an individualized/customized decision and should be a part of a discussion with your doctor.


What can I do to get my cholesterol at an appropriate level?

If your cholesterol is high, there are two ways to reduce it—lifestyle modification and medications. In terms of lifestyle modification, this includes many changes but the most common recommendations include reaching ideal body weight and controlling the amount of fat in the diet (particularly saturated fat), quitting smoking and getting more physical activity.


Where can I get more information?

The American Heart Association and WebMD both have excellent websites that offer scientifically based information about cholesterol and heart disease. Here are some helpful links below:

American Heart Association

Web MD


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