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Doc Griggs Corner

Health and Wellness Center- Cholesterol: What is it?

Eric Craig | 2/8/2017, 1:33 p.m.
Cholesterol is a type of fat that is found within the blood. The fat combines with calcium and other bad ...

Cholesterol: What is it?

Cholesterol is a type of fat that is found within the blood. The fat combines with calcium and other bad things to form plaque. This plaque hardens in the blood vessels and restricts the flow of blood. And over a period of time, the vessels become small and narrow. This causes a major risk factor leading to heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes (5, 6). Today, there are many people who do not know that they suffer from high cholesterol because this disease DOES NOT present or cause any symptoms. Therefore, it is important to be aware of your cholesterol levels and take proper action if you are a candidate for treatment.

What kind of test do I need?

In order to check your cholesterol levels, a blood tested called a “Lipid Panel” or “Lipid Profile” must be taken. To receive a good reading, do not eat or drink (water is allowed) 9 to 12 hours before the test. The test will consist of a small finger prick or a small sample of blood from the arm (6). A normal total cholesterol value roughly falls below 200 mmol/L, anything above this is considered to be elevated or abnormal. Anyone greater than 20 years old without heart disease should get their cholesterol checked every 4 to 6 years to measure their cardiovascular risk (6). Visit your primary care physician today!

Where does it come from?

Problems with cholesterol can come from many different factors. It can be caused by genetic factors, especially if a family member suffers from the disease. Lack of exercise and poor eating habits can lead to elevated cholesterol. Obesity is also a major risk factor for this disease, and it is very important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and lose any excess weight in order to prevent onset or severity.

How to Prevent It?

Preventing problems with cholesterol starts with you! Daily exercise and healthy eating habits helps to both maintain and decrease cholesterol levels. Foods that are low in fat are the best, as well as foods that consist of Omega-3-Fatty Acids, vegetables (3), fruits, and lean meats (poultry, fish, etc.). A good diet and regular exercise (~30 to 45 minutes daily) aids in the prevention of cholesterol problems. Additionally, smoking and drinking alcohol are habits that should be avoided or limited while trying to maintain cholesterol (4). If you are struggling with tobacco use, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about different options that are available to assist you in quitting.

How is it treated?

Cholesterol can be treated in a way that does not require medication, and this type of therapy includes: exercise, good nutrition and health, and weight loss. However, medicinal treatment of cholesterol is sometimes necessary with proper diagnosis. Treatment with such medications reduce the risk of cardiovascular events (1). There are many different classes of drugs that are used to help treat cholesterol. The drugs that are commonly used are:

  1. HMG-CoA Reeducates Inhibitors, or “-statins”, which can lower cholesterol over 40% (2).

  2. Bile Acid Binding resins

  3. Omega-3- Fatty Acids, known as “fish oil”