Take control of your health and prevent cardiovascular disease
(heart attack, stroke, cholesterol plaques)
What does cholesterol have to do with getting a heart attack?
A complete cholesterol test is also called a lipid panel or lipid profile. Your doctor can use it to measure the amount of “good” and “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides, a type of fat, in your blood.
Getting your cholesterol levels checked is an important part of staying healthy and understanding your risk of plaque build up in your heart and arteries. High cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the United States. Knowing your cholesterol status can help you stay in control of your health. Learn about cholesterol screening (link to: https://diagnoseathome.com/heart-health/cholesterol-test) and why it is important.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body needs to make hormones and digest fats. It is perfectly normal to have cholesterol in your body. You need it! BUT… too much of the wrong type of cholesterol can be damaging and even life threatening. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs, but you can also get cholesterol from eating certain foods, such as egg yolks and fatty meats. Having high blood cholesterol can lead to plaque build-up in the arteries, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke. The tricky part about high blood cholesterol is that you can’t feel it. High cholesterol doesn’t have symptoms, which is why getting your cholesterol levels checked is so important. Learn more about cholesterol screenings and heart health tests. (https://diagnoseathome.com/heart-health).
High cholesterol may put you at risk for:
- heart disease
- atherosclerosis, a clogging or hardening of your arteries
If you’re a man, you should get your cholesterol levels checked regularly, starting by age 35 or younger. If you’re a woman, you should begin routine cholesterol screening by age 45 or younger. To be on the safe side, you may want to get your cholesterol tested beginning as early as age 20. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, or high blood pressure, or if you’re taking medication to control your cholesterol levels, you should check your cholesterol regularly.
At What Age Should I Get Screened?
More than 1 in 5 youths ages 6 to 19 have an unhealthy cholesterol reading, and 95 million U.S. adults age 20 or older have high cholesterol. But since high cholesterol doesn’t have symptoms, many people don’t know their levels are high. Cholesterol should be checked starting early in life—even children and adolescents should have their cholesterol checked.
Cholesterol testing should be done
- Once between ages 9 and 11 (before puberty)
- Once between ages 17 and 21 (after puberty)
- Every 4 to 6 years in adulthood
If your family has a history of early heart attacks or heart disease, or if a child has obesity or diabetes, doctors may recommend screening for high cholesterol more often.
Am I at risk of High Cholesterol?
Cholesterol testing is very important if you:
- have a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease
- are overweight or obese
- drink alcohol frequently
- smoke cigarettes
- lead an inactive lifestyle
- have diabetes, kidney disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, or an underactive thyroid gland
Lifestyle, some health conditions, and family history can raise your risk for high cholesterol. Your doctor may suggest you have your cholesterol checked more often if you have risk factors, such as the following:
- A family history of heart disease or high blood cholesterol. You are more at risk of having high cholesterol if other people in your family have it. This may be due to genetics, but it may also be that families share the same unhealthy lifestyle habits. Some people also have a genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia, which can cause high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol from a young age.
- Diabetes. Type 2 diabetes raises “bad” cholesterol and lowers high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol, raising the risk for heart disease and stroke.
- Older age. As you age, your body can’t clear cholesterol as well as it used to.
- Being male. Men tend to have higher LDL and lower HDL cholesterol levels than women do. But after menopause (around age 55), LDL cholesterol levels in women increase.
- Having overweight or obesity. Excess weight, unhealthy eating habits, and lack of physical activity can lead to high cholesterol.
- Previously having had high cholesterol. If you have a history of high cholesterol, your doctor may want you to keep a closer watch on your cholesterol.
What Does a Cholesterol Test Measure?
A complete cholesterol test measures four types of lipids, or fats, in your blood:
- Total cholesterol: This is the total amount of cholesterol in your blood.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: This is referred to as “bad” cholesterol. Too much of it raises your risk of heart attack, stroke, and atherosclerosis.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: This is referred to as “good” cholesterol because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from your blood.
- Triglycerides: When you eat, your body converts the calories it doesn’t need into triglycerides, which are stored in your fat cells. People who are overweight, diabetic, eat too many sweets, or drink too much alcohol can have high triglyceride levels.
How Is a Home Cholesterol Test Performed?
To check your cholesterol levels, your doctor will need to get a sample of your blood.
DiagnoseAtHome provides you with an easy and simple at home process. Simply prick your finger, place the blood on the sampling card and mail it back to the lab. Your results will be back in just days.
The old fashion way of getting your cholesterol checked involved going to a lab, taking time off work or school and waiting around for your turn. Some patients go to walk-in clinics, where rates can cost anywhere from $50 to $100 plus the cost of testing.
What Do the Test Results Mean?
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood. Ideal results for most adults are:
- LDL: 70 to 130 mg/dL (the lower the number, the better)
- HDL: more than 40 to 60 mg/dL (the higher the number, the better)
- total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL (the lower the number, the better)
- triglycerides: 10 to 150 mg/dL (the lower the number, the better)
If your cholesterol numbers are outside of the normal range, you may be at a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and atherosclerosis. If your test results are abnormal, your doctor may order a blood glucose test to check for diabetes. Your doctor might also order a thyroid function test to determine if your thyroid is underactive.
Next Steps and Treatment
High cholesterol can be treated with lifestyle changes and medication. Lowering high levels of LDL in your blood can help you avoid problems with your heart and blood vessels.
To help lower your cholesterol levels:
- Quit smoking tobacco and limit your alcohol consumption.
- Avoid high-fat and high-sodium foods, while maintaining a well-balanced diet. Eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products, low-fat dairy products, and lean sources of protein.
- Exercise regularly. Try to do 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week, as well as two sessions of muscle strengthening activities.
Your doctor may put you on a “therapeutic lifestyle changes” or TLC diet. Under this meal plan, only 7 percent of your daily calories should come from saturated fat. It also requires you to get less than 200 mg of cholesterol from your food each day.
Some foods help your digestive tract absorb less cholesterol. For example, your doctor may encourage you to eat more:
- oats, barley, and other whole grains
- fruits such as apples, pears, bananas, and oranges
- vegetables such as eggplant and okra
- beans and legumes, such as kidney beans, chickpeas, and lentils
Obesity is also a common risk factor for high cholesterol and heart disease. Your doctor may encourage you to lose weight by cutting calories from your diet and exercising more.
Taking medications such as statins can also help keep your cholesterol in check. These medications help lower your LDL levels.
The Bottom Line
Overall getting your cholesterol check is important so you know what is going on in the inside of your body. It is easy to take control of your health simply, and from the comfort of your home. So kick back and relax and enjoy better health!