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High Cholesterol

Specialist Treating and Preventing High Cholesterol

Our heart specialists at University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute help patients successfully prevent and treat high cholesterol. Our preventive measures and treatments for patients with high cholesterol help reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease and other life-threatening conditions.

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that keeps us healthy and helps our bodies perform important functions. However, too much of it can be harmful. When your cholesterol levels are too high, you have high cholesterol or hyperlipidemia.

Your body has two types of cholesterol. Too much LDL or bad cholesterol can lead to the hardening and blocking of your arteries. In contrast, good cholesterol or HDL, can remove dangerous plaque from your arteries. Hyperlipidemia refers to excessive amounts of LDL or bad cholesterol in your body.

Importance of Regular Visits with a Primary Care Physician

High LDL cholesterol is an underdiagnosed issue that many people do not know they have. Since high LDL cholesterol does not show any visible signs or symptoms, you should visit your primary care physician on a regular basis to undergo health screenings and blood tests that can help spot and manage it. By detecting this condition early on, you can reduce your risk of stroke, heart disease and heart attack.

What Causes High Cholesterol or Increases Risk?

While high cholesterol can run in families, the majority of risk factors for high cholesterol are within your control. These risk factors include:

  • Diabetes: High blood sugar leads to higher LDL cholesterol and may damage the lining of your arteries.
  • Lack of exercise: Since regular exercise raises HDL cholesterol and reduces LDL cholesterol, if you are physically inactive, you are at risk for high cholesterol.
  • Large waist circumference: If you are a man with a waist circumference of 40 inches or more or a woman with a waist circumference of at least 35 inches, your risk for high cholesterol is increased.
  • Obesity: A body mass index or BMI of 30 or greater puts you at risk for high cholesterol.
  • Poor diet: A diet full of saturated fat, trans-fat and packaged foods can increase your cholesterol levels.
  • Smoking: Smoking damages the walls of the blood vessels and can raise their chances of accumulating fatty deposits.

Treating High Cholesterol Through Lifestyle Modifications and Medications

At UH, our team of cardiologists, electrophysiologists and other heart specialists treat high cholesterol through lifestyle modifications, medications or a combination of both. Some of the lifestyle modifications we may recommend include:

  • Consuming a low-sodium diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation
  • Increasing physical activity
  • Limiting saturated and trans-fats
  • Managing weight
  • Replacing fatty meats with cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines
  • Quitting smoking

If a healthy lifestyle is not enough, or if your high cholesterol is due to a family history of high cholesterol, we may prescribe a single drug or a number of medications to help manage your high cholesterol. These medications can decrease LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol and protect you from serious or life-threatening heart conditions.