September 18, 2019

Author: Dr. Kavitha Moolamalla M.D

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States?

Approximately 630,000 Americans die each year due to heart disease. Coronary heart disease is the most common occurrence, which is caused by a buildup of plaque in arteries leading to abnormal blood flow. This plaque buildup is due to cholesterol.

What is Cholesterol?

Blood cholesterol is a waxy, fat like substance that is made by your liver. The body performs important jobs such as making hormones and digesting fatty foods. Naturally, your body will make all the cholesterol it needs.

95 million adults age 20 or older have total cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dL

Risk Factors

  • High Cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Family History

Where is Dietary Cholesterol Found?

  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Fried Foods
  • Processed Meats
  • Desserts
  • Fast Foods
  • Butter
  • Fatty Meat Products

Types of Cholesterol and Ranges

  • Total cholesterol < 200 mg/dL is normal
  • LDL cholesterol < 100 mg/dL is normal (bad cholesterol)
  • HDL cholesterol > 40 mg/dL is healthy
  • Triglycerides < 150 mg/dL is normal (fat in the blood)

When Should Screening Be Done?

  1. Between 9 and 11 years old (before puberty)
  2. Between 17 and 21 years old (after puberty)
  3. Every 4 to 6 years

How to Get Cholesterol Levels Under Control?

By making healthy lifestyle and dietary choices, you can keep your cholesterol levels within a healthy range and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Try to maintain a healthy BMI < 25 with regular moderate intensity exercise. This can best be accomplished through 60 minutes of light cardio 4-5 times per week accompanied by resistance training 3 times per week.

Take the stairs! Park at a distance and walk to the store, every step counts!

Make healthy eating choices by limiting foods that are high in saturated fats like animal products, cheese, fatty meats, dairy products, and tropical oils like coconut oil and palm oil.

Choose foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, and added sugars. Examples are lean meats, seafood, fat free and low fat milks, cheeses, and yogurts, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

 

Eat foods high in fiber, such as oatmeal, and legumes. Also, unsaturated fats can be found in avocado, vegetables, and olive oil. These foods will help you prevent high levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides (bad fats) while increasing your HDL (good cholesterol).

When to Treat Cholesterol with Medication?

When your cholesterol levels are high and risk factors exist, take your cardiovascular risk assessment and medication into consideration.

Various medication options exist.

Statin Slows liver production of cholesterol and improves the liver’s ability to remove cholesterol
Bile Acid Sequestrants Binds bile acids in the gut and affects lipoprotein metabolism
Niacin B vitamin that raises HDL, lowers total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides
Fibrates Decreases triglycerides
Injection  PCSK9 Inhibitors Used in patients who cannot take oral medication, do not respond or do not tolerate oral medication due to side effects
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