High cholesterol causes no symptoms, until plaque buildup on artery walls begins to cause serious damage. So have your cholesterol checked regularly. AMA guidelines recommend that everyone aged 20 years and older should have their blood cholesterol level measured at least once every 5 years. A blood test called a lipoprotein profile will reveal your cholesterol numbers.
High-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol is the “good” cholesterol. High HDL cholesterol is a good thing. An HDL of 60 mg/dL and above protects against heart disease. Low HDL cholesterol (less than 40 mg/dL for men, less than 50 mg/dL for women) increases the risk for heart disease. High-density lipoprotein collects excess cholesterol from the walls of blood vessels, cleaning them. It then carries that excess cholesterol back to the liver for processing.
Having “high cholesterol” means you have too much “bad” low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol in your blood. LDL cholesterol can build up inside your arteries narrowing them like mineral buildup in a plumbing system.
The LDL cholesterol numbers stand for cholesterol levels in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL)
- 100 or below is very good
- 100-129 is not bad
- 130-159 is borderline high
- 160-189 is high
- 190 and above is very high
When too much bad LDL cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries. In combination with other substances, it forms plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. Coronary heart disease (CHD) occurs when cholesterol deposited within arteries that supply the heart muscle begin to build up enough to reduce blood flow. Such a buildup may cause so much damage that an angioplasty procedure or a heart bypass operation becomes necessary.
A blood clot may form where plaque narrows an artery. A clot could break loose, as the heart pushes blood through the circulatory system, and move to the heat causing a heart attack or to the brain, resulting in an ischemic or blockage stroke. Plaque build up in arteries may also cause heart disease, or peripheral artery disease.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and over 500,000 coronary artery bypass surgeries are preformed each year. If you do no know your blood cholesterol, make an appointment today.