What is high cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like material that provides structure for a body’s cells. A person’s liver makes most of the cholesterol a body needs, but a person can also get some from foods. Too much can cause a sticky substance (plaque) to build up in blood vessels. This plaque can block blood vessels and cause heart attacks and strokes.
But I feel okay.
Most people with high cholesterol feel healthy and don’t have symptoms. The only way to levels are high is to have cholesterol levels checked.
Cholesterol is checked with a blood test. The test works best if you don’t eat or drink anything for at least 8 hours before the test.
This chart shows the damage cholesterol can inflict on an artery.
What do your numbers mean?
Your total cholesterol is made up of two types of cholesterol:
- LDL (low-density lipoproteins)
- HDL (high-density lipoproteins).
High levels of LDL increase a person’s chances of heart disease. It is the “bad cholesterol.” High levels of HDL decrease a person’s chances of heart disease. It is the “good cholesterol.”
What can you do?
Follow a healthy eating plan.
- Read food labels and limit foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.
- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods and whole grains.
- Ask to see a registered dietitian if you need help with a plan.
Be physically active.
- “Physical activity” includes any activity that raises a person’s heart rate, such as brisk walking, working in the house or yard, or playing sports.
- Do activity for 10 minutes or more at a time. Aim for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of activity each week.
Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
If a person is overweight, ask a provider for help with an eating and physical activity plan to lose weight
A provider may prescribe medicine to help lower cholesterol. People should take the medicine every day, or as directed by a provider. If cholesterol numbers get lower, it’s because the medicine is working. Don’t stop it or take a lower dose unless a provider says so.
Here are the facts.
For more information, contact a local VA Medical Center or Health Clinic.