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What’s Really Going On When We Say You Have High Cholesterol

High cholesterol is a risk factor for many other medical problems and a concerning condition in itself. Whether you have high cholesterol as a result of another disease or on its own, you should take the condition seriously and try to manage it. 

If you’re one of the 71 million Americans with high cholesterol, Westmed Family Healthcare is prepared to help you monitor and treat it. 

At our office in Westminster, Colorado, board-certified family physicians Clifton Etienne, MD, Michael Cavanaugh, MD, and Flora Brewington, MD, can tell you what’s really going on inside your body if you have high cholesterol. They can also advise you on how to manage the condition and prescribe medications if you need them. 

It might surprise you to discover you have high cholesterol during a doctor’s visit, but lowering your cholesterol is possible. Read this blog as a first step in understanding your condition and the best practices for managing it. 

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a type of lipid (fatty particle) found in your blood. Everyone has cholesterol and it serves an important purpose. In fact, several types of cholesterol play important roles within your arteries. 

When we say you have high cholesterol, we’re specifically talking about your levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This cholesterol is carried by LDLs and causes plaque to build up in your arteries. You might know this as the “bad” cholesterol. Left unmanaged, high LDL cholesterol can damage your cardiovascular system and lead to heart disease. 

High-density lipoproteins (HDLs) carry cholesterol to your liver to balance the cholesterol levels in your blood. HDL cholesterol is considered the “good” cholesterol. You want plenty of HDL cholesterol to keep your lipids in check. 

What high cholesterol means for your health

High cholesterol is a risk factor for many harmful and even deadly medical complications. As LDL cholesterol builds up along the walls of your arteries, they can stiffen and become narrower. This condition is called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis places stress on your heart as it must work harder to pump blood through your vessels. 

Eventually, high cholesterol may lead to:

Ominously, high cholesterol doesn’t cause symptoms on its own. That’s why it’s important to consult your physician about cholesterol tests, especially if you’re at risk. 

Causes and risk factors

Like most health conditions, high cholesterol is rarely linked to a singular cause. There are multiple risk factors for the condition including some within your control and others you have no influence over. 

You may be at an increased risk for high cholesterol if you:

In some cases, high cholesterol is a secondary condition. This means it accompanies some other medical condition. You might reach unhealthy cholesterol levels because of specific medications or conditions such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes, or hypothyroidism. 

What you can do to manage your cholesterol

Managing your cholesterol may be possible without medications. Our team might suggest including less saturated fat in your diet, reducing your alcohol consumption, or finding a healthy way to manage your stress. If you have any underlying medical conditions, you should manage them to the best of your ability too. 

Some people need extra help from medications to safely lower their cholesterol. Our team can prescribe medications to help you achieve a healthier cholesterol level when lifestyle adjustments fall short. They might also advise you to visit our office for regular cholesterol screenings. 

To find out if you have high cholesterol, call Westmed Family Healthcare to schedule a visit. 

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