• Greenhaven
  • West Sacramento

High Cholesterol

No matter your age, you can help prevent high cholesterol. If you already have high cholesterol, your River Bend Medical Associates healthcare team can help you manage it.

High cholesterol is a common challenge that many people cope with.  When cholesterol levels are too high, it can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries.  Over time, this plaque buildup causes atherosclerosis or “hardening of the arteries.”  When atherosclerosis occurs, your arteries (vessels that supply the heart with blood) become narrowed, and blood flow to the heart is restricted or blocked.  Blood carries oxygen to your heart, and without enough oxygen you can suffer from chest pains. A complete blockage in the artery can cut off blood flow to the heart and can lead to a heart attack.

You don’t fight this health battle alone; your family doctor can help you lower your cholesterol levels with effective treatments. At River Bend Medical Associates, we are here to help you maintain your coronary health through routine exams, blood testing, and heart health support. Whether you have high cholesterol due to genetics or poor health habits, we can help. Our skilled primary care physicians can offer treatments and will work with you to help you establish healthy lifestyle habits so that you can have a healthy heart and a healthy life.

What is High Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your blood. Your liver produces cholesterol, and it’s also in some foods like dairy and meat products. Your body needs cholesterol to produce hormones and digest fats, but if you have too much cholesterol in your blood it can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Because there are no warning signs or symptoms of high cholesterol, people often don’t know they have it, or don’t they take it seriously, until they have a heart attack or a stroke.  That’s why it’s important to have your cholesterol levels tested so you can know your numbers.

high cholesterol - fried food

The two types of cholesterol are:

LDL (low-density-lipoprotein) also known as “bad” cholesterol.

HDL (high-density lipoprotein) also known as “good” cholesterol.

Too much of the bad (LDL) kind, or not enough of the good (HDL) kind, increases the risk cholesterol will slowly build up on the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain.

Triglycerides are another type of lipid that circulates in the blood. A high triglyceride level combined with a low HDL or a high LDL level is associated with fatty cholesterol buildup within the artery walls, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The only way to know you have high cholesterol is through a blood test called a lipid panel.

If you are concerned about your cholesterol, talk to your family doctor about getting a cholesterol test and steps you can take to manage your cholesterol levels.

Risk Factors for High Cholesterol

Family history, some health conditions, and lifestyle can raise your risk for high cholesterol. 

Your family physician may suggest you have your cholesterol checked more often if you have risk factors like:

  • If you have a family history of high cholesterol – Some people have a genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia, which can cause high LDL (low-density-lipoprotein) levels.
  • A family history of heart disease – You are at a higher risk for having high cholesterol and heart disease if someone in your family has it.
  • Diabetes – Type 2 diabetes can raise LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels and lower “good” HDL (high-density-lipoprotein) levels.
  • Age – As you grow older, your body is less able to clear cholesterol as well as it once did.
  • Lifestyle choices – Unhealthy habits can impact your heart health and cholesterol levels. Eating lots of foods high in trans fat and saturated fat may contribute to high cholesterol and related conditions. Smoking damages blood vessels and puts you at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.  
  • Overweight or obese – A lack of physical activity, unhealthy dietary habits, and being overweight can lead to high cholesterol.
  • High cholesterol levels – If you have already tested positive for high cholesterol your doctor may want to closely monitor your levels.

Treatment for High Cholesterol

lower your cholesterol - healthy food choices

To start with, healthy lifestyle choices like a healthy diet and regular exercise are key to lowering cholesterol. If you have made these healthy changes to your lifestyle, but aren’t seeing any changes in your cholesterol numbers, your family doctor may prescribe medications to help.

Cholesterol-lowering medications include:

  • Statins
  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors
  • Bile-acid binding resins
  • Omega-3 fatty acid esters
  • Injectable medications

Most of these medications lower cholesterol with few side effects, but effectiveness varies from person to person. It’s still important to follow a healthy diet and get enough exercise, but people who have a genetic predisposition to high blood cholesterol levels may need medication in addition to diet to reduce cholesterol.

By living a healthy lifestyle and taking medications as directed, you can keep your cholesterol in a healthy range and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. High blood cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in your body. When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, plaque can slowly build up on your artery walls making them narrow. When the arteries become narrowed, blood flow to the heart can be slowed down or completely stopped which can lead to a heart attack.

No matter your age, you can help prevent and manage high cholesterol by making healthy choices and by managing any health conditions you may have. Your River Bend Medical Associates healthcare team can help you manage your high cholesterol. 

If you have concerns about your risk of high cholesterol and heart disease and would like to speak with one of our caring medical professionals, contact our family medical practice for an appointment. As part of your medical team, we are here to provide you with the best care in all aspects of your health needs, including managing your cholesterol levels.  Contact River Bend Medical Associates today.