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High Cholesterol
(Hypercholesterolemia)

Definition:
High cholesterol is excess levels of cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol in the blood consists of three main components:

Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL)–involved in depositing cholesterol and other fats throughout the body. High levels of LDL put you at risk for hardening of the arteries and heart disease.

High Density Lipoproteins (HDL)–involved in eliminating cholesterol and other fats from the body. High levels of HDL are protective against heart disease.

  • Triglycerides–a common form of fat in the body
Causes:
Causes of high cholesterol include:
  • Inherited tendency to have high cholesterol
  • High-fat diet
  • Overweight
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Excess alcohol intake

Risk Factors:
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for high cholesterol include:

  • Age: Cholesterol levels tend to rise as you get older
  • Sex:
    • Males
    • Females after menopause
  • Family members with high cholesterol
  • High-fat diet
  • Obesity, overweight
  • Sedentary lifestyle
Symptoms:
High cholesterol rarely causes symptoms.

Eventually, symptoms may include:

  • Angina (chest pain)
  • In people with an inherited form of high cholesterol, cholesterol deposits:
    • In the tendons
    • Under the eyes
    • Around the cornea
Diagnosis:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. High cholesterol is diagnosed through tests that measure levels of the following factors in your blood:
  • Total cholesterol
  • HDL cholesterol
  • LDL cholesterol
  • Triglycerides
Treatment:
Treatment may include:
Lifestyle Changes :
  • Limit the amount of fat and cholesterol you eat.
  • Eat a diet high in fiber.
  • Begin a safe exercise program recommended by your doctor.
  • Increase physical activity in your daily life, as recommended by your doctor.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • If you are overweight, lose weight.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Moderate alcohol intake is no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women.
Cholesterol-Lowering Medication :
If diet and exercise don't lower your blood cholesterol in a reasonable period of time, you may need cholesterol-lowering medication. A partial list of medications includes:
  • Cholestyramine (Questran)
  • Colestipol (Colestid)
  • Nicotinic acid (Niacor)
  • Lovastatin (Mevacor)
  • Pravastatin (Pravachol)
  • Simvastatin (Zocor)
  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
Prevention:
To reduce your chance of having high cholesterol:
  • Eat a healthful diet, one that is low in saturated fat and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Don't smoke. If you smoke, quit.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. Moderate alcohol intake is no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women.
 
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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