High cholesterol, also known as hypercholesterolemia, is a condition characterized by a significant increase in LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol. Too muchLDL cholesterol increases the risk cholesterol will slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain, ultimately leading to cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and stroke.
Nearly 1 in 3 American adults has been diagnosed with high cholesterol. More specifically, about 55% of American adults who could benefit from cholesterol medication are currently taking it.
Please note: High cholesterol is not limited to any particular gender, age, or other demographic.
Specialists believe many factors can contribute to high cholesterol in one individual over time. Those at risk to high cholesterol may:
- Have an unbalanced, unhealthy diet
- Be overweight or considered medically obese
- Not incorporate regular physical activity into their daily routines
- Smoke or be exposed to drug or tobacco use
High cholesterol has no symptoms, so many people are not aware if their cholesterol is too high. A simple blood test can check cholesterol levels. That being said, one with undetected high cholesterol may experience one of more of these conditions:
- Aortic aneurysm
- Heart attack
- Peripheral artery disease
Your primary care physician will guide you through an initial diagnosis. If the primary care physician cannot accomplish this based on the resources available, he or she may refer you to a cardiologist.
A cardiologist is a physician skilled in assessing, diagnosing, treating, and preventing diseases or conditions associated with the heart and/or blood vessels. This physician is equipped to treat patients who have consistent high cholesterol that can be hard to maintain alone.
If you are a healthy adult, you should have your cholesterol checked about every 4 to 6 years. At risk individuals, like those with heart disease, with diabetes, or who have a family history of high cholesterol, should have their cholesterol checked more often. If diagnosed with high cholesterol, your physician will carry out appropriate treatment suggestions
High cholesterol will likely require some form of treatment. Your physician will recommend appropriate treatment which may include (but is not limited to):
- Statin medication (atorvastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin, simvastatin, etc.)
According to the American Heart Association, “Statins, also known as HMG CoA reductase inhibitors, works in the liver to prevent cholesterol from forming. This reduces the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood. Statins are most effective at lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. They also help lower triglycerides (blood fats) and raise HDL (good) cholesterol.”
- Other medication or supplement alternatives (cholesterol absorption inhibitors, bile acid sequestrants, PCSK9 inhibitors, fibrates, niacin, Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ethyl Esters, etc.)
- Self-care (physical exercise, eliminate smoking or tobacco use, low-fat diet, increased water consumption, etc.)