If you’re waiting for a symptom, you need to see this.
Most people prefer to avoid the doctor’s office until something’s wrong—a broken ankle, a sore throat, a stomach ache that won’t go away. But your best health is only possible by making regular visits to screen for hidden problems. One of those sneaky conditions is high cholesterol, or hyperlipidemia.
“High cholesterol has no symptoms,” says Michelle Weisfelner Bloom, MD, a cardiologist at Stony Brook University Medical Center. “The only way you would know your cholesterol is high is if your doctor tested your blood.”
When LDL cholesterol (the so-called bad kind) gets too high, it can leave fatty, wax-like deposits in the arteries that increase the risk of blockages and heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. (Here’s more information about how high cholesterol affects the body.) Of course, this could eventually lead to noticeable symptoms like heart disease, but it’s easier to reverse high cholesterol than it is to manage heart disease or recover from a heart attack or stroke. That’s why catching risky cholesterol levels early on is so important.
To check your cholesterol, doctors will take what’s known as a cholesterol profile or lipid panel, according to Paul Knoepflmacher, MD, a clinical instructor in medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital. It’s a simple routine test (and you might not even need to fast before a cholesterol test anymore, depending on your personal circumstances).
You should start getting your cholesterol checked arounge age 18, says Rachel Bond, MD, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital. “It’s suggested that you get tested once every two years or so. Once you reach 40, it should really be done on a yearly basis.”
If you have certain risk factors for high cholesterol, your doc may recommend checking your cholesterol on a yearly basis before age 40. Risk factors for high cholesterol include the following, according to Dr. Weisfelner Bloom:
Having high blood pressure
Being overweight or obese
Having a family history of heart disease
To prevent the risk of stroke and heart disease, the National Stroke Association recommends keeping total cholesterol levels below 200. If you’re tested and your numbers are above the target range, your doctor will discuss possible treatments—which may or may not include medication for high cholesterol.
Tweaking your diet and other lifestyle factors can be enough to shrink cholesterol numbers, according to Dr. Bond. (Here’s why exercise helps lower cholesterol and some simple diet rules treat high cholesterol.) “We have the ability to [reduce] our cholesterol numbers, and by doing so, you may avoid the need to be started on a medication.”
Dr. Bloom is an associate professor of medicine at Stony Brook University Medical Center, a fellow of the American College of Cardiology, and a fellow of the Heart Failure Society of America.Paul Knoepflmacher
Dr. Knoepflmacher is a clinical instructor of medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where he also maintains a private practice.Rachel Bond
Dr. Bond is a cardiologist and associate director of the Women's Heart Health Program at Northwell Health, Lenox Hill Hospital and an assistant professor of cardiology at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine.
00:00:00,000 --> 00:00:02,285
00:00:02,285 --> 00:00:05,979
So high cholesterol has no symptoms,
the only way you would know that your
00:00:05,979 --> 00:00:08,853
cholesterol is high is if your
doctor tested your blood.
00:00:08,853 --> 00:00:14,414
00:00:14,414 --> 00:00:18,320
High blood cholesterol, or
hyperlipidemia, is diagnosed based on
00:00:18,320 --> 00:00:23,330
a simple blood test called a cholesterol
profile or a lipid panel, lipid profile.
00:00:23,330 --> 00:00:26,850
And this is done in your
doctor's office very routinely.
00:00:26,850 --> 00:00:30,970
So the decision on when to test for
cholesterol is really an individual
00:00:30,970 --> 00:00:35,220
decision based on what your doctor
feels is your risk profile.
00:00:35,220 --> 00:00:37,960
patients should ultimately get tested for
00:00:37,960 --> 00:00:40,180
cholesterol starting about the age of 18.
00:00:40,180 --> 00:00:43,911
And it's suggested that you get
tested once every two years or so.
00:00:43,911 --> 00:00:47,120
Once you reach 40, it should be
really done on a yearly basis.
00:00:47,120 --> 00:00:51,310
And between the ages of 18 and 40,
you may be checked on a yearly basis,
00:00:51,310 --> 00:00:53,100
depending on what your risk factors are.
00:00:53,100 --> 00:00:54,592
So if you have higher risk factors,
00:00:54,592 --> 00:00:56,890
you're likely going to get
checked more frequently.
00:00:56,890 --> 00:01:01,912
The risk factors for high cholesterol
are diabetes, high blood pressure, being
00:01:01,912 --> 00:01:07,380
overweight or obese, smoking, or having
a family history of early cardiac disease.
00:01:07,380 --> 00:01:11,060
Once the numbers are evaluated,
if they're above the goal,
00:01:11,060 --> 00:01:15,360
the conversation that entails
is how high are your numbers,
00:01:15,360 --> 00:01:19,850
particularly focusing in on your LDL,
which is your bad cholesterol.
00:01:19,850 --> 00:01:23,042
If your numbers are very, very high,
it may be suggested you be
00:01:23,042 --> 00:01:26,367
started immediately on a medication
to lower your cholesterol.
00:01:26,367 --> 00:01:29,300
For the most part, though,
we can change our diet.
00:01:29,300 --> 00:01:32,771
We have the ability to sort of
reduce our cholesterol numbers.
00:01:32,771 --> 00:01:40,213
And by doing so, you may avoid the need
to be started on a medication.
00:01:40,213 --> 00:01:42,740