Cholesterol is not always bad. In fact, your body needs some cholesterol to help make hormones, vitamin D, and other substances used in the process of digestion.
Your body makes cholesterol naturally, but this fat-like substance is also found in the food we eat. There are two types of cholesterol:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), is known as "bad" cholesterol.
- High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is considered "good" cholesterol. (American Heart Association)
The goal is to have healthy levels of both types. Why? Too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to cardiovascular disease, the number one cause of death in the United States.
LDL (Bad) Cholesterol
When too much LDL cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed your heart and brain. Combined with other substances, it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the body’s arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. It causes less oxygen-rich blood to make it to the heart muscle.
Eventually, plaque may rupture causing a blood clot to form. If the clot then blocks a narrowed artery, heart attack or stroke can result.
Some people have a genetic predisposition for high LDL cholesterol. This means it runs in their family. In addition, eating saturated fat, trans fats and dietary cholesterol can also increase blood cholesterol levels. If you have a genetic predisposition for this condition, lifestyle modifications may not be enough to help lower your LDL number.
The American Heart Association (AHA) offers the following prevention and treatment plans for those suffering from high cholesterol:
Your diet, weight, physical activity and exposure to tobacco smoke all affect your cholesterol level — and these factors may be controlled by:
eating a heart-healthy diet
enjoying regular physical activity
- avoiding tobacco smoke
Your doctor may also recommend cholesterol-lowering medication. Statins are the most common class of drugs to treat those suffering from high cholesterol. They work in the liver to prevent the formation of cholesterol. Statins are most effective at lowering the LDL cholesterol, but have also been shown to have modest effects on lowering triglycerides (blood fats) and raising HDL (good) cholesterol.
Even though high cholesterol may lead to serious heart disease, most of the time there are no symptoms. This is why it is critical to have your cholesterol levels checked routinely by your doctor. All it takes is a simple blood test.
The Regional Medical Center in San Jose offers an extensive cardiovascular program that includes a Nationally Accredited Level III Chest Pain Center. At the heart of the program is a talented team of highly-skilled cardiologists, surgeons, nurses and support staff available 24 hours per day, seven days a week for immediate medical care.
For more information about Cardiovascular Services available at the Regional Medical Center of San Jose, call (888) 762-8881.