Cholesterol, a waxy substance found in the blood is typically used by the body to build healthy cells. However, when the cholesterol levels are very high, fatty deposits develop in the blood vessels. The buildup of fatty deposits obstructs the flow of blood through the arteries to the heart and brain, which increases the risk of a heart attack or a stroke.
Unfortunately, there are no symptoms of high cholesterol and most people are unaware that their cholesterol levels are too high until they suffer a heart attack or they suffer a stroke.
A cholesterol test can be an important step in fighting heart disease. Despite its importance in heart health, a cholesterol test is very easy to do and, in some cases, can be done in the comfort of your own home. It may even save your life.
You are more likely to have a higher level of cholesterol if any of these risk factors are present:
• Family History of High Cholesterol: Your odds of having high cholesterol are higher if a parent or sibling suffered from some type of heart disease before the age of 55.
• Obesity: Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more puts you at a higher risk for high cholesterol
• Smoking: Smoking does two-fold damage. It lowers the HDL ( good cholesterol) levels in the body and it also damages the walls of the blood vessels, making them more prone to accumulating fatty deposits.
• Unhealthy Diet: A diet that includes high cholesterol foods such as red meats and full-fat dairy products is also instrumental in raising cholesterol levels.
• Insufficient Exercise: Exercise lowers LDL or bad cholesterol levels while boosting HDL or good cholesterol.
• High Blood Pressure: The excessive pressure damages the artery walls, which accelerates the accumulation of fatty deposits.
• Diabetes: High blood sugar damages the artery linings and contributes to higher LDL cholesterol.
Lifestyle changes, which include regular exercise, a healthy diet and giving up smoking are the key to maintaining normal cholesterol levels. Sometimes however, this is not enough and the doctor may recommend medication for lowering cholesterol. The specific medications vary depending on several factors including age, current health and the individual health factors.