What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy element in the blood that is naturally produced in the liver and is found in many foods. Cholesterol helps to build cells and to produce hormones and vitamin D. Within normal limits, cholesterol is an essential element of a healthy body.
When levels are too high, cholesterol builds up in the bloodstream, causing blockages in the blood vessels. This prevents proper blood flow to tissues and increases the risk for serious complications such as heart disease, stroke, and blood clots.
What are HDL and LDL cholesterol?
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL) are commonly called the two main types of cholesterol. More accurately, these lipoproteins manage cholesterol in the body. They work in two different ways:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is often called “bad cholesterol.” LDL transports cholesterol through the body and can cause buildup in the bloodstream and blood vessels.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is typically called “good cholesterol.” It helps collect excess cholesterol and prevents blockages from occurring.
Healthy cholesterol levels are a balance of low LDL and high HDL. When you have your cholesterol checked, your results reflect how much of each type of cholesterol you have in your bloodstream. Ideally, your LDL level should be 100 mg/dl or less and your HDL should be 60 mg/dl or above.
What are the risks of having high cholesterol?
High cholesterol is the leading risk factor for coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common type of heart disease. With CAD, high cholesterol causes blockage in the arteries that feed the heart, interrupting blood flow to the heart and the rest of the body.
High cholesterol also increases your risk for:
Yearly cholesterol checks and cardiovascular exams help determine your risk factors for these complications and can enable you to make healthier choices.
How can I improve my cholesterol?
To lower your LDL cholesterol and increase your HDL cholesterol, healthy lifestyle changes include:
Your provider at Bethesda Immediate Care may suggest you take cholesterol-lowering medications if lifestyle changes alone are not effective. Any effort toward lowering your cholesterol benefits your overall health and wellness.
For a cholesterol check, call or schedule an appointment online with Bethesda Immediate Care.