High Cholesterol Diagnosis & Screening
The human body relies upon fatty cholesterol to function properly. Throughout different parts of the body such as the heart, brain, skin and nerves, cells use cholesterol to help digest fat and to produce vitamin D and hormones. Having cholesterol in the body is a very good thing; the problem is when there is too much.
Only a small amount of cholesterol is required by the cells of the body to accomplish its necessary functions. Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream to get to the organs that need it. There should only be a small amount of cholesterol flowing through the bloodstream. If not, there are a number of treatments available for high cholesterol.
When the body develops high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), some of it needs to exit the blood and find shelter in the arteries, specifically coronary (heart), carotid (brain) and leg arteries. As low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol builds up in the arterial walls and forms plaque and deposits, it narrows the circumference of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Blockage in the arteries causes decreased blood flow, and blood flow may even stop altogether. Decreased blood supply may result in the deterioration of organs and muscles because they become deprived of their required oxygen and nutrients with which the bloodstream provides them. Build-up of cholesterol in oxygen-providing arteries leads to reduction in blood supply and may cause the following:
- Coronary heart disease
- Heart attack
- Pain in the legs (specifically when walking)
- Blood clots
- Muscle death
Levels of cholesterol in the body are determined by blood tests. The levels of different types of cholesterol and triglycerides are calculated and mathematically computed to determine people’s risk of heart disease.
- LDL (low density lipoprotein): the “bad cholesterol” that deposits in arteries and may cause heart disease
- HDL (high density lipoprotein): the “good cholesterol” that helps to clear the body of LDL, thereby protecting against the risk of heart disease
- Total Cholesterol: LDL + HDL
- Triglycerides: another form of fat in the body that also contributes to risk of heart disease
Blood Test Diagnostic Table:
- Normal: < 200 mg/dL
- Borderline High Risk: 200-239 mg/dL High Risk: > 240
HDL (high density lipoprotein; “good cholesterol”)
- Normal: > 60mg/dL
- Increased Risk of Heart Disease for Men: < 40 mg/dL
- Increased Risk of Heart Disease for Women: < 50 mg/dL
LDL (low density lipoprotein; “bad cholesterol”)
- Ideal: < 100 mg/dL Ideal-Normal: 100-129 mg/dL
- Borderline High Risk: 130-159 mg/dL
- High Risk: 160- 189 mg/dL
- Dangerously High Risk: > 190 mg/dL
- Normal: < 150 mg/dL
- Borderline High Risk: 150-199 mg/dL
- High Risk: 200-499mg/dL
- Dangerously high Risk: > 500 mg/dL
To calculate your cholesterol ratio, or risk of heart disease, fast for 9-12 hours and get a blood test from your health care provider. Obtain the results of your LDL, HDL and triglycerides levels. Add your HDL and LDL levels to determine your total cholesterol. Then, divide your total cholesterol by your HDL and provide your result in ratio form. This ratio tells you your risk of heart attack.
Hypercholesterolemia is manageable. Maintaining a healthy diet, exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight and reducing stress are ways of keeping your cholesterol levels in check. There are also prescription drugs available, such as statins, to lower LDL cholesterol. Ask your doctor about your cholesterol levels and the best course of action to take control of your cholesterol and risk of heart disease today.