High Cholesterol Information

High cholesterol is a lipid disorder. Lipids are fatty substances including triglycerides and cholesterol. Triglycerides are an important energy source for our body, and cholesterol is a key building block of every cell in our body. Because these are oily material, they do not dissolve well in our blood. The body uses special proteins to move lipids where we use them. The problem for people with high cholesterol is either too much lipids or a problem with how the body regulates movement of the lipids. With this disorder, lipids can build up in the walls of the blood vessels, leading to blockages. This increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke, and several other blood vessel problems.

Blood lipids are divided into three key measurements: HDL, LDL and triglycerides. HDL cholesterol is called the good cholesterol. For HDL, higher is better. We want an HDL number over 50. Diet does little to help this number. Exercise is the best way to improve a low HDL. LDL is the bad cholesterol. It is best to have an LDL under 70, although an LDL under 100 is considered good. We work on diet improvement (with a diet low in saturated and trans fats) if the number is over 130, and we think about medicines for cholesterol if the number is over 160. Patients with heart disease or diabetes need to consider medication if the number is over 100. Triglycerides should be under 160.

Patients with high cholesterol should monitor their blood levels at least yearly to measure progress towards these goals. If we make a significant change, we will usually want to check the cholesterol sooner – usually after three months.