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What is High Cholesterol?

High cholesterol levels can vary for each individual depending on other risk factors. Generally, healthy cholesterol levels are a total cholesterol of less than 200 mg/dL and an LDL cholesterol level of less than 130 mg/dL.

Different types of cholesterol and fats have different effects. The most commonly known types are:

  • LDL Cholesterol

    Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is the bad cholesterol. Excess LDL builds up on your arteries and may lead to heart disease. The higher the level of LDL, the higher your risk for heart disease. Lowering high LDL-cholesterol can prevent heart attacks and save lives.
  • HDL Cholesterol

    High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is the good cholesterol because it is believed to remove cholesterol from the blood. High levels of HDL in your blood may help to reduce your risk of coronary artery disease. A low level can increase your risk of heart disease.
  • Triglycerides

    Triglycerides are another type of fat in your bloodstream. If you have high blood triglyceride levels, you may also have a high LDL which further increases your risk of heart disease.

There are many reasons for a high cholesterol level, including diet, family history, obesity or some diseases such as diabetes.

Heart Disease Risks

High cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease because it builds up on artery walls and forms thick plaque. This build up narrows the arteries and your heart has to work harder to push blood through. Hardened plaque can also rupture and form blood clots that completely block blood flow in a major artery. When blood supply is cut off from the brain or heart, you suffer a heart attack or a stroke.

Other Risk Factors for Heart Disease

  • High LDL-cholesterol
  • Low HDL-cholesterol level (less than 35 mg/dL)
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Increasing age
  • Smoking
  • A family history of early heart disease (a parent or sibling less than 55 years old, if male or 65 years old if female)

Controlling High Cholesterol

You can lower your cholesterol with healthy diet and exercise habits, but sometimes these lifestyle changes must be combined with medication. At Tennessee Heart & Vascular, we will create a custom plan to keep your cholesterol levels low and keep your heart healthy.

All adults over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol checked at least once every 5 years. Depending on your results and other heart disease risks, your cholesterol should be checked every 1 to 5 years. Your blood cholesterol level is checked by a simple blood test and measured as milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood (mg/dL).