Cholesterol 101: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

A health concern that many Americans might not immediately consider is cholesterol. Millions of Americans suffer from Hyperlipidemia, which most people might know as “high cholesterol”. However, if you have high cholesterol,  it does not have to be a life sentence. If you learn enough to have a good understanding of cholesterol and how it works, you may be able to prevent or reduce high cholesterol and its effects.

Cholesterol is a type of lipid. Lipids are oily or waxy organic molecules that are found in living things. Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty lipid that is produced naturally by our livers. Regular levels of cholesterol are very important to the creation of vitamin D, some hormones, and cell membranes but high levels of cholesterol can be dangerous to our health.

What is High Cholesterol & How Do You Know If You Have It?
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Cholesterol is unable to dissolve in water so it needs help to travel through our blood. This travel assistance comes in the form of lipoproteins, particles of fat and protein that are also produced by our livers. Lipoproteins help carry cholesterol and triglycerides (which is another type of lipid) through our bloodstreams.

These are the two major forms of lipoproteins:

  • Low-density lipoprotein, known commonly as LDL cholesterol
  • High-density lipoprotein, known commonly as HDL cholesterol

Due to its name, you might think that high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is what causes high cholesterol but actually, it is low-density lipoprotein (LDL) that can lead to high cholesterol levels.

Unfortunately, it is hard to pinpoint high cholesterol on our own. There usually are not detectable symptoms until a related emergency event occurs, such as a heart attack or stroke. For this reason, high cholesterol is commonly thought of as a silent problem.

Luckily, a simple blood test, known as a lipid panel. can easily reveal your cholesterol levels and whether you have high cholesterol or not. Typically doctors will perform a lipid panel once a patient turns 20, and then every 4 to 6 years after that. 

Medical experts now know that high cholesterol can be hereditary so if your family history puts you at risk for it, your doctor may want to perform a lipid panel more regularly.

Learn about the difference between “good” and “bad” cholesterol.

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