By Karen Stokes
High cholesterol levels pose a significant threat to health and the urgent need for individuals to take measures to address this issue.
More than 40% of adults in the United States are unaware they have and therefore are not being treated for high cholesterol, according to a new study published in JAMA Cardiology.
Dr Paul S. Pienkos, cardiologist at Ascension Medical Group said, “Cholesterol is one of the major risk factors that lead people to develop heart disease. Heart disease is a leading cause of hospitalization, premature death and other complications. Other risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, weight, and smoking are very important to address to reduce the risk of future events.”
Dr. Pienkos added, “These risk factors all together increase the chance that someone can develop premature coronary heart disease or other problems with their health whether it be with the heart or other conditions.”
Most heart and blood vessel disease is caused by a buildup of cholesterol, plaque and other fatty deposits in artery walls. The arteries that feed the heart can become so clogged that the blood flow is reduced, causing chest pain. If a blood clot forms and blocks the artery, a heart attack can occur. If a blood clot blocks an artery leading to or in the brain, a stroke results, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
“The major categories are the LDL (Low-density lipoprotein) which many refer to as the “bad” cholesterol that increases the risk of inflammation within the blood vessels that increases the risk of heart disease and stroke and so when we think about cholesterol probably the LDL is the most important factor,” Dr. Pienkos said. “Many times patients are also concerned about other opponents of the cholesterol profile like the HDL (High-density lipoprotein) the “good” cholesterol but in terms of the guidelines the focus over the last number of years is really to lower the risk factor of the LDL.”
According to the AHA, High density lipoproteins (HDL cholesterol) are called “good” cholesterol because they remove cholesterol from the bloodstream and the artery walls. A healthy HDL-cholesterol level may protect against heart attack and stroke.
You can make lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol. Dr Pienkos suggests; Try to eat a nutritious diet, low in saturated fat, plant based watching caloric intake but also exercising at least 30 minutes each day, walking or other activities are recommended.
For more information, Dr. Pienkos suggests going to the AHA website, heart.org, for details on topics like exercise, what you should eat, what foods you should limit and cooking tips for a heart healthy diet.
“People can develop high cholesterol at any age depending on their environment, nutrition and fitness. That’s why it’s important to be evaluated for cholesterol by your provider to try to determine if you have a propensity towards higher cholesterol. There are many patients that can have a higher propensity or a genetic type of cholesterol that can increase the risk 5 to 10 times the risk of the population,” Dr. Pienkos said.
“In general oftentimes the first symptom will be an event like stroke, a heart attack or a sudden hospitalization. There are hundreds of thousands of these hospitalizations each year. Screening is so important to find out if your cholesterol is high,” he said.