Hypercholesterolemia is a condition in which you have high levels of cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol is made in the body and obtained from some food groups in your everyday diet. The body needs cholesterol for various things, like making hormones and making compounds to assist in fat digestion. Cholesterol is carried through your bloodstream by lipoproteins. The two lipoproteins are LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body, and combined with a high LDL or low HDL, can also be bad for your health. Too much cholesterol can come with risks of developing heart disease. Cholesterol buildup can occur and harden artery walls, and cause restricted blood flow to the heart.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
There are typically no symptoms associated with high cholesterol. Diagnosing high cholesterol can be done with lab work ordered by your healthcare provider. Often you are required to fast (not having food, beverages or medications before coming in for the test). Your doctor will take these results and consider other risk factors you may have to determine your risk of heart disease.
Treatment of High Cholesterol
Depending on your lab values and other risk factors, your healthcare provider may recommend life style changes with or without medication. Lifestyle changes include eating a heart healthy diet, regular exercise, quitting smoking, and losing weight if you are overweight. If lifestyle changes are not enough to lower your cholesterol to goal, medications may be necessary. Statin medications are usually recommended for most patients, and have many different options available. Statins can cause side effects and increased lab values, so it is important to keep all your scheduled follow ups with your healthcare provider. Other drug classes may be used in addition to statins or by themselves if statins are not tolerated. These include selective cholesterol absorption inhibitors, resins, fibrates, and niacin. PCSK9 inhibitors were released in the last few years and have also proven to be very effective at lowering LDL with or without combination statins. Talk with your healthcare provider and see which therapies are most appropriate for your needs to help lower your risk for heart complications.
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