What Factors Can Contribute to High Cholesterol?
Maintaining normal and appropriate cholesterol levels is critical for a person’s overall heart health, but there are a number of factors that can contribute to high cholesterol levels — putting patients at risk. Understanding these risk factors is essential for effective prevention and health management. At Lawrence Family Practice Center in Lawrence, KS, our dedicated doctors prioritize your cardiovascular health to help boost your quality of life and minimize your risk of serious complications and even life-threatening events or conditions in the future. Here, you’ll find helpful insights into what factors can contribute to high cholesterol, how the condition is diagnosed and treated, and what you can do at home to maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in the cells. It plays an important role in the production of hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids necessary for digestion. Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream primarily in two forms: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL cholesterol, often referred to as "bad" cholesterol, can build up on the walls of arteries, leading to plaque formation and atherosclerosis. On the other hand, HDL cholesterol, known as "good" cholesterol, helps remove LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Maintaining a balance between these cholesterol types is essential for heart health.
What are the risks of having high cholesterol?
High cholesterol levels significantly increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, including coronary artery disease and stroke. When LDL cholesterol accumulates in the arteries, it can form plaques that restrict blood flow. This restriction can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition where arteries become hardened and narrowed, potentially resulting in chest pain or, in severe cases, heart attacks. Additionally, atherosclerosis can impact blood vessels supplying the brain, increasing the likelihood of stroke.
What causes high cholesterol?
High cholesterol can be the result of a number of factors, including:
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise
In many cases, high cholesterol is a multifactorial condition, meaning more than one variable is contributing to the patient’s elevated cholesterol levels.
How is high cholesterol diagnosed and treated?
Because elevated cholesterol often does not show any early warning signs until a cardiovascular event occurs, regular cholesterol screenings and awareness of risk factors are essential for early detection and effective management. Diagnosing high cholesterol involves a simple blood test in our office to measure cholesterol levels. While the method of treating high cholesterol will vary from patient to patient based on the nature and severity of their condition, treatment for elevated cholesterol often combines lifestyle changes and, if necessary, medication.
Can I lower my cholesterol without medication?
In some cases, patients may be able to lower their cholesterol level with dietary, lifestyle, and behavioral changes, including:
- Adopting a heart-healthy diet (lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains)
- Engaging in regular physical activity
- Quitting smoking
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Limiting alcohol consumption
Even with at-home management, patients should continue to have their cholesterol, blood pressure, and other aspects of their health monitored through routine preventive health screenings with our doctors.
Protect your heart health with preventive screenings and cholesterol testing in Lawrence, KS
Don't overlook the impact of high cholesterol on your cardiovascular health. Schedule your preventive health exam and cholesterol screening at Lawrence Family Practice Center in Lawrence, KS. Our experienced healthcare professionals are dedicated to helping you achieve and maintain optimal health so that you can enjoy all that life has to offer for longer.