You often hear about cholesterol and how important it is to have healthy cholesterol levels, but how much do you really know about this fat-like substance in your blood?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance you will find in all the cells in your body. Cholesterol is necessary for several bodily functions, such as making hormones, vitamin D and compounds that help your body digest food.
A normal body produces all the cholesterol needed. This same fatty substance is also found in foods.
What happens when there’s too much cholesterol in my body?
High cholesterol is a condition in which your blood has too much cholesterol, which causes it to build up in the walls of your arteries.
When the cholesterol starts building in your arteries, you are at higher risk of the following:
- Hardened arteries that slow down the flow of blood to your heart
- Heart disease – the disease that kills more men and women in the United States each year than any other cause of death. Over one million Americans succumb to heart disease every year.
- Chest pain
- Heart attack
The scary thing about high cholesterol is that having high cholesterol doesn’t mean you will have symptoms. In fact, there are no symptoms associated with high cholesterol, so unless you monitor your cholesterol numbers with a doctor, you might not know until your arteries have already started to harden.
Even if you’re young, having healthy cholesterol levels is very, very important.
What do cholesterol numbers mean?
Once you turn 20 years old, it’s time to start having your cholesterol numbers checked at least once every five years. When you see your doctor, he will likely do a blood test called a “lipoprotein profile.”
Before you take the test, you have to fast for nine to twelve hours. The test will reveal the following information:
- Total cholesterol
- LDL (bad) cholesterol – the kind of cholesterol that causes buildup on the walls of your arteries
- HDL (good) cholesterol – the kind of cholesterol that helps keep the bad cholesterol from building up and hardening your arteries
- Triglycerides–another kind of lipid in your blood that also causes heart problems if levels are too high
If for some reason you cannot get to your doctor and get tested regularly, if you know your total cholesterol and your good cholesterol numbers, then that can help you understand your overall levels.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says if your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or more, or if your good cholesterol is less than 40 mg/dL, you should see a doctor and get a lipoprotein profile done.
If you have any questions about high cholesterol or need to get a lipoprotein profile, stop by Urgent Care or give us a call today.