What is high cholesterol?Cholesterol is a waxy substance found only in foods that come from animals. It is also manufactured by the body in the liver. You need small amounts of cholesterol to make and maintain nerve cells and to manufacture natural hormones.
When you have too much cholesterol in your bloodstream it is called hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol. Hypercholesterolemia increases your risk of heart disease.
The two most important components of cholesterol are low–density lipoprotein (LDL), the so–called “Bad” cholesterol, and high–density lipoprotein (HDL), the “Good” cholesterol. The goal of most cholesterol treatment is to decrease the LDL in your blood and to raise the HDL.
How does high cholesterol occur?
The most common cause of high cholesterol is eating foods that are high in saturated fat or cholesterol. Other possible causes are:
- An inherited disorder in which cholesterol is not metabolized properly by the body.
- A disease that raises the cholesterol level (for example, diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, liver disease, or hypothyroidism).
What are the symptoms?Hypercholesterolemia is a silent disease. There are no symptoms until complications have already developed, such as the chest pain of a heart attack or calf pain with walking, caused by narrowed or blocked arteries to the legs.
How is it diagnosed?The doctor will order a blood test to check your cholesterol level. These lab tests usually measure your total cholesterol level as well as the levels of LDL, HDL, and triglyceride in your blood.
You may need to fast before your blood test. This means you do not eat or drink anything except water for 12 hours before the test.
The doctor may give you a physical exam and ask about your diet and diseases and health problems in your family.