High Cholesterol Q & A
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance your body produces naturally. It’s a necessary part of manufacturing vitamin D, hormones, and enabling the digestion of foods. In addition to the cholesterol your body creates, you can also get cholesterol from the foods you eat.
While cholesterol is necessary for healthy body function, too much can be a problem. When you have excess cholesterol in your blood, it can clump together with other substances to create plaque. That plaque can stick to your arterial walls, narrowing them and restricting the volume of blood that can flow through.
What causes high cholesterol?
An unhealthy lifestyle is the most common cause of high cholesterol. A diet high in fat is a primary factor. If you consume the following foods on a regular basis, you may be at risk for high cholesterol:
Living a sedentary lifestyle can also contribute to high cholesterol. Spending lots of time sitting in one position and getting little exercise at home or work can cause your cholesterol to spike.
Smoking, in addition to being terrible for your overall health, can also play a role in high cholesterol.
What are the health risks associated with high cholesterol?
Heart disease is among the most dangerous risks of living with high cholesterol. A buildup of plaque in your arteries changes the way your blood flows. You can develop a clot that can block a coronary artery, which can be life-threatening.
Your blood carries oxygen to organs located throughout your body. When your circulation is compromised, those organs can become deprived of the oxygen they need to thrive.
High cholesterol can also cause peripheral artery disease, carotid artery disease, and stroke.
What can I do to lower my cholesterol?
You can reduce your cholesterol by making lifestyle improvements. Try to eat more fruits and vegetables, and avoid foods known to raise cholesterol. Get plenty of exercise, and try to gradually increase your activity levels in ways that don’t require a trip to the gym. Park across the lot from your office, take your dog for a long nightly walk, or take breaks during your workday to walk for a few minutes.
Medication can also help lower your cholesterol. This is a good approach if your medical team feels you are in imminent risk for a serious health problem. If you’d like to learn more about your current cholesterol levels, a simple blood test is all that’s needed. Call or use the online tool to set up a visit.