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Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like compound found in every cell in the body. There are two primary types of cholesterol:
Unhealthy cholesterol levels—too-high LDL and/or too-low HDL—can result from a poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, cigarette smoking and certain medications.
People with high (LDL) cholesterol levels often experience no symptoms, which is part of the problem. Because excess LDL typically harms the body “silently,” the first symptom of this condition may be a heart attack, stroke or painful blocked leg artery.
The cardiologists at WakeMed can you help monitor your cholesterol regularly and help you lower it if it is elevated.
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Cholesterol is measured with a lipid panel. This blood test—conducted after a 12- to 14-hour fast—measures both types of cholesterol as well as triglycerides, a type of fat found in your blood that can increase your risk of heart disease.
Everyone over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol checked at least every five years. Men older than 45 and women older than 50 may need to have their cholesterol checked every year or two, especially if they have a family history or other risk factors.
For patients with high cholesterol levels, cardiac imaging studies can then be used to determine if the unhealthy cholesterol levels are negatively affecting the cardiovascular system. These imaging studies may include:
The first treatment for high cholesterol is to make lifestyle changes. That means increasing exercise to be physically active most days of the week for 30 to 60 minutes.
People with high cholesterol also should watch what they eat. An ideal low-cholesterol diet is low in fatty foods like certain meats, dairy products, egg yolks and shellfish, and higher in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, nuts and whole grains.
Those with unhealthy cholesterol levels also should do their best to quit smoking, as cigarettes raise LDL and triglyceride levels.
Making these lifestyle modifications lowers elevated LDL to normal values in many people. Cholesterol-lowering medications may be necessary for patients with multiple risk factors or a history of cardiovascular disease.
If you or someone you know would like more information on lowering cholesterol levels, we encourage you to make an appointment with one of WakeMed’s experienced cardiologists.
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3000 New Bern Ave.
Raleigh, NC 27610