Cholesterol is found in all cells of your body and supports the function of cell membranes, hormone levels, and more. While our bodies need cholesterol to function properly, too much cholesterol can be a major risk for a heart attack, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
Cholesterol, also called lipids, is a fat, waxy-like substance that can build up in your artery walls and creates a hard deposit called plaque that can narrow and clog arteries. There are several factors that contribute to high cholesterol including genetics, diet, lifestyle, and exercise. Many people don't; realize they have high cholesterol and are at risk for heart disease.
The best way to determine your risk level is to have your cholesterol levels checked. Contact Dr. Nadar and the team at Capital Area Cardiovascular Associates to schedule an appointment in our Camp Hill, Pa. or Newport, Pa. office.
Cholesterol levels are measured through a blood test, also called a lipid panel or lipid profile. The blood test is relatively easy for most patients and does not require much preparation aside from fasting for 9-12 hours before the test. Dr. Nadar will advise you on whether or not you should fast before the blood test.
The lipid panel provides cardiologist Dr. Nadar with:
- Total cholesterol: Total cholesterol includes both your LDL and HDL levels.
- LDL cholesterol: LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is the "bad" cholesterol that can lead to heart and cardiovascular disease. Normal LDL is below 100 mg/dL.
- HDL cholesterol: HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is the "good" cholesterol. HDL helps remove cholesterol from your body. Normal lipid panel results for HDL are above 60 mg/dL.
- Triglycerides: Triglycerides are not a type of cholesterol but are part of a lipid panel. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood. High levels of triglycerides can increase the risk of heart disease, particularly in women. Normal ranges for triglycerides are below 150 mg/dL.
The results of your lipid panel may be categorized as borderline-, intermediate-, or high-risk for a heart attack, heart disease, stroke, or related cardiovascular issues. The team at Capital Area Cardiovascular Associates will use the results of the lipid profile to develop a cholesterol management and treatment program.
Cholesterol Management and Treatment
Cholesterol treatment and management begins with lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. Heart healthy diets, exercise, and weight loss can be key in lowering your cholesterol levels. Some causes of high cholesterol are hereditary, though, so medication may be prescribed to help reduce cholesterol levels.
Common medications used to treat high cholesterol include:
- Statins: Statins slow or block the liver's production of cholesterol. Statins may also help remove existing cholesterol from circulating through the body.
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitors: Cholesterol absorption inhibitors help reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed from food by the small intestine. Some cholesterol absorption inhibitors can be used in combination with statins.
- Bempedoic acid: Bempedoic acid is a newer type of drug that works in a similar way to statins, with fewer side effects (particularly muscle pain).
- Resins: Resins, also called bile-acid-binding resins, bind to bile (digestive acid) and prompt the liver to use excess cholesterol to make more bile acids. This then reduces the level of cholesterol in your blood.
- PCSK9 inhibitors: PCSK9 inhibitor medications block the liver from producing a protein called PCSK9. This allows the liver to absorb more LDL cholesterol and lower the overall cholesterol levels in the blood.
Dr. Nadar will prescribe the appropriate medication or combination of medications based on your medical history, risk factors, and lipid panel results. If you are currently on cholesterol medication and have any questions, contact our office today.
If you have high cholesterol levels, you can reduce your cholesterol by making small changes in your lifestyle in addition to taking medication. Lowering your cholesterol is a long-term effort and includes:
- Heart-healthy diet: Overall heart health is linked to the foods you eat. A diet focused on reducing cholesterol includes limiting the amount of saturated fats and trans fats. Patients with high cholesterol should avoid red meat and full fat dairy products and increase the amount of soluble fiber foods like oatmeal, kidney beans, apples, pears, and Brussel sprouts.
- Exercise: Exercise is also directly linked to health including cardiovascular health. Patients should add some physical activity daily, even a short walk. Exercise can help you lose weight, a contributing factor to high cholesterol. Before starting an exercise program, consult with Dr. Nadar.
- Quit smoking: Quitting smoking improves your HDL, or "good" cholesterol. When you quit smoking, the benefits are immediate. Within 20 minutes, your blood pressure and heart rate recover. Within three months, blood circulation and lung function improve, and within just one year, your risk of heart disease is half of that of a smoker. If you are trying to quit smoking, talk to Dr. Nadar on a cessation program.
- Avoid alcohol: Too much alcohol can lead to health problems including high blood pressure, heart failure, and stokes.
If you're diagnosed with high cholesterol, lifestyle changes and medication can help reduce cholesterol and your risk of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke. Dr. Nadar and the team at Capital Area Cardiovascular Associates are here to help you with your cholesterol management program.