Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that’s produced by the liver. It's found within the cell walls, which means that cholesterol is naturally present in the heart, brain, and everywhere else in the human body. It's also present in a number of different foods including eggs, bacon, sausage, red meats, and cheese.
When the body has too much cholesterol, the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular disease is greatly increased. This means that too much cholesterol can result in heart attacks and strokes.
One of the more confusing things about cholesterol is that not all cholesterol is bad. High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is good kind of cholesterol. HDL removes the bad type of cholesterol from the body. The bad cholesterol, Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is mainly derived from the diet. LDL accumulates on the artery walls and raises the odds of developing cardiovascular disease.
Cholesterol readings are a combination of HDL and LDL. The total cholesterol number generally should be under 200 mg/dL. People with 200-239 mg/dL cholesterol readings are considered to have borderline high cholesterol. People with cholesterol readings of 240 mg/dL and above have high cholesterol. When the numbers are broken down into LDL and HDL, patients should strive to keep their LDL under 190 and their HDL 40 or more. The higher the HDL number is, the better because it can help patients lower their risk of heart disease.
The risk factors for high cholesterol include smoking, high blood pressure, and a diet high in processed and fatty foods. Overweight people are more likely to have high cholesterol due to their dietary choices. People who don't exercise are similarly more likely to have high cholesterol. Women are more likely to have high cholesterol than men once they reach menopausal age. People over the age of 45 (in men) and 55 (in women) have an elevated risk for high cholesterol. Family may also play a role. If a family member such as a parent or sibling has high cholesterol, a person may be more likely to have it themselves.
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