Identifying and combating high cholesterol

By: Dr. Christian Avalos
DHR Health Heart Institute

High cholesterol is a condition in which there are too many lipids (fats) in your blood (also called hyperlipidemia or hypercholesterolemia). Almost 2 in 5 adults in the US have high cholesterol. It increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the US.

A lipid panel measures the amount of each type of cholesterol in your blood. LDL is considered the “bad” cholesterol, because it contributes to plaque buildup in arteries. HDL is the “good” cholesterol because protects against heart attacks and strokes. Some people inherit genes from their family leading to high levels of certain cholesterol. Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is an inherited disorder where the body recycles LDL and levels remain very high. People with FH are born with already high LDL levels and are at risk for early heart disease without treatment.

High cholesterol has usually no signs or symptoms until it causes other problems in your body. As cholesterol increases, it forms a thick, hard plaque on the inside of the arteries. Atherosclerosis develops when the plaque starts to narrow the arteries, reduces blood flow, and lessens the amount of oxygen and other nutrients reaching the body. A heart attack or stroke can then result when a blood clot forms and blocks these narrowed arteries.

High cholesterol is one of the major modifiable risk factors for heart attacks and strokes. The risk increases with other factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Establishing healthy eating and physical activity habits early can reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems over time. Patients with high cholesterol should seek an evaluation from their primary care physician or cardiologist.

If you have questions regarding your heart health or would like to speak to one of our experts, please contact the DHR Health Heart Institute on 4316 N. McColl Road at (956) 362-8810.