High cholesterol means that you have elevated levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream, and it is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. Cholesterol is a fatty substance present in the blood. When there is too much of it, it can leave deposits and build up as plaque on the walls of arteries. This ultimately leads to coronary artery disease and other heart health complications.
Cholesterol readings are actually somewhat complicated, as there is a total cholesterol level, an LDL, or the so-called bad cholesterol level, and a level of HDL, or good cholesterol. In keeping cholesterol in check, the most important readings are to have a total cholesterol level below 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), and an LDL level below 129 mg/dL. If blood cholesterol levels begin to get much higher than that, they are ranging into unhealthy levels that can put you at risk for heart disease.
Causes of High Cholesterol
Some people have naturally high cholesterol levels due to family history. Cholesterol levels also tend to increase as you age. Other times, however, there are steps you can take to manage your cholesterol levels. For example, obesity puts you at a greater risk of having high blood cholesterol levels. Eating a diet high in saturated fat or cholesterol is also a cause of high cholesterol, as is inactivity.
Considering this, making a few lifestyle changes is one of the best steps you can take to keep blood cholesterol levels under control. Exercising more, eating a healthy diet and managing your weight are all important steps in managing cholesterol. It’s also important to quit smoking, as this can also play a role. There are a number of medications that can help people keep cholesterol at a healthy level, so it’s important to work closely with a health care provider in finding the right combination of treatments to help you manage your cholesterol level.
SOURCES: National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; American Heart Association.