Cholesterol

Overview

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in healthy cells throughout the body. Produced by the liver, cholesterol occurs naturally in the body. The body makes all that is needed, but cholesterol can also be found in foods such as meat and animal byproducts like milk and eggs. It is not found in fruits, vegetables or grains. There are two forms of cholesterol. Low-density lipoproteins – or LDL – is considered bad. This type of cholesterol builds up on arteries causing them to harden or blocking them. This can cause poor circulation, blood clots, heart disease or stroke. High-density lipoproteins – or HDL – are more easily processed and released from the body. This type of cholesterol can also help remove LDL deposits and lower the blood cholesterol level. Because several health problems are associated with high cholesterol, it is important to eat a diet with few low-density lipoproteins. The diet should be high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Though problems caused by high cholesterol – such as heart disease and stroke – have symptoms, high cholesterol itself exhibits none. The only way for a person to know they have high cholesterol is by testing the blood. Even in those with no history of high cholesterol, testing should be performed every five years past age 20 as part of a regular health exam.

When diagnosing high cholesterol, a doctor will perform a blood test. This test is called a lipid panel and reports total cholesterol, LDL and HDL levels and triglycerides. For accurate results, patients must fast for twelve hours before testing.

Causes

The most common cause of high cholesterol is poor diet. Those eating diets high in bad fats like saturated and trans fat, animal protein heavy diets and diets lacking fruits, vegetables and whole grains are at higher risk for elevated cholesterol levels. In addition, poor diets such as these often lead to obesity which is another leading cause of high cholesterol. High cholesterol tends to run in families, so those with a family history of high cholesterol need to be extra vigilant in maintaining a healthy weight, exercise program and diet. Continue reading for Prevention and Treatment information . . .

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