You have heard that your heart health depends in part on your cholesterol levels. However, did you know that hyperlipidemia can lead to artery blockage and heart disease? Here, we examine the link between hyperlipidemia and cardiovascular health – cholesterol. Understanding this link can help you practice lifestyle choices that lead to a healthier heart and improved overall well-being.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a broad medical term which both doctors and patients alike use to describe the fatty substance circulating through the bloodstream. Some cholesterol is produced by the body itself in the liver. Other sources for lipoproteins are contained in the foods we eat every day.
In fact, cholesterol plays an important role in many bodily processes, such as building cell walls and producing the natural chemicals we call hormones. Cholesterol also aids in digestion, and helps your skin utilize important Vitamin D.
However, when too much cholesterol accumulates in the bloodstream, fatty plaques can accumulate in coronary arteries, blood vessels in the legs and other vital areas of the body. As time goes on, the cholesterol hardens and causes serious blockages.
As such, your primary care physician or cardiologist will monitor your cholesterol through a routine blood draw at your annual physical examination. This easy screening test should start as early as age 20, and your physician will tell you how often you should have one, based on your heredity, physical health, age and other factors. For instance, if you are diabetic, your provider will want you tested more frequently.
What Do High Cholesterol Levels Do to My Health?
Not every measure of blood cholesterol is harmful. In fact, HDL (high density lipoprotein) levels should be higher than LDL (low density lipoprotein) levels. HDL is thought of as “good cholesterol.” Processed by the liver, HDL should be present in excess to maintain clear, functional coronary arteries which carry oxygenated blood to the heart muscle.
Regarding LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” these levels must be lower as compared to HDL. Lower LDL means less plaque formation and healthier coronary arteries as well as more patent and functional blood vessels in the legs, neck and brain.
Hyperlipidemia, Cholesterol, and Heart Disease
Hyperlipidemia is a condition in which you have too many lipids, or fats, in your blood. Cholesterol is a type of lipid, and those with hyperlipidemia have higher LDL cholesterol levels.
As such, if your doctor diagnoses you with hyperlipidemia – specifically hypercholesterolemia – you are at higher risk of heart attack, stroke (from clot formation), mini-strokes, dementia related to vascular disease and even dangerous aortic aneurysms. Aneurysms are weak spots in artery walls which can rupture, causing destructive and even fatal internal bleeding.
How Can I Improve My Blood Cholesterol Levels?
For some individuals, heredity, the aging process and even ethnicity can lead to hyperlipidemia. However, even people who have risk factors which are largely not their fault can improve blood cholesterol in the same way other people can.
For instance, research shows that reducing your body weight by as little as five to 10 percent can improve your cholesterol numbers. In addition, limiting the amount of saturated fats in your diet to a daily intake of six percent can also improve cholesterol levels.
Additionally, these lifestyle changes – which really are healthy for anyone to undertake – can manage hyperlipidemia and reduce your risk of serious complications. These changes include:
- Adopting a regular program of moderate aerobic exercise (150 minutes of walking, cycling or swimming per week, for example)
- Achieving a body weight within ideal range
- Monitoring blood glucose and blood pressure
- Avoiding caffeine and reducing alcohol intake
- Consuming far less refined sugar, salt and processed food products
- Increasing dietary fiber
- Switching high fat dairy for skimmed or non-dairy choices
- Smoking cessation
- Learning ways to reduce stress
- Controlling blood pressure and blood sugar levels
- Taking prescribed cholesterol lowering medications, such as statins, as directed by your healthcare provider
Hyperlipidemia Treatment Near Me in Sarasota, FL
At Intercoastal Medical Group, we help scores of people understand how hyperlipidemia can impact their health. We identify their risk factors and show them ways to improve their cholesterol levels and other measures of health and well-being. Preventive health care is a large part of what we do because we see real results in the lives of our patients.
Learn more about hyperlipidemia by calling one of our 10 Florida locations for a consultation with an experienced and helpful healthcare provider. Or, simply request your appointment here. Our 8 board-certified cardiologists see patients at our Beneva Cardiology office and also at Lakewood Ranch II and Cattleridge Medical Building II. We hope to speak with you soon!