Cholesterol is naturally produced by the liver but also enters the body through the food you eat. Your body needs some cholesterol, but too much can cause plaque to form between layers of artery walls. That makes it harder for blood to flow properly. It’s important to maintain a healthy level of cholesterol because high cholesterol significantly increases an individual’s risk of heart disease and stroke, especially if it goes untreated.
Factors that put you at risk for high cholesterol include: family history, smoking, diabetes, autoimmune disorders and a diet high in fat and cholesterol. Cholesterol levels are determined by genetics and diet, but the recommended total cholesterol level is 200 or less. You can be considered high risk if your LDL cholesterol level is above 70. While you can’t change your genetic make-up, you can fight high cholesterol counts with diet and exercise. A balanced diet made up of lean meats, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and that is low in fat is an optimum choice for lowering cholesterol. Regular exercise is also important to keep your cholesterol in check, and you should try to fit in 30 minutes, four to five times a week. In some cases, medication is used alongside lifestyle changes to bring levels down into the desired ranges.
Cardiologists are now administering tests known as advanced lipid profiles on patients who have a family history or other risk factors of heart disease. These tests not only measure the normal cholesterol levels, but they also measure the number and size of the cholesterol particles in the blood. This gives cardiologists a better understanding of a patient’s level of risk for developing heart disease, and how to develop a proper preventative treatment plan.
It is important for individuals to discuss their personal and family health history, as well as other risk factors for high cholesterol, with their physician, as taking preventative action can be potentially life-saving. Our community is fortunate, as Cone Health Medical Group HeartCare has an exceptional team of cardiologists dedicated to keeping their patients healthy and lowering their risk of developing serious conditions such as heart disease.
Dr. Chad Hilty is a cardiologist at Cone Health Medical Group HeartCare. Dr. Hilty is a 2005 graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of Rochester, and a fellowship in cardiovascular disease at the Medical University of South Carolina.