Cholesterol plays a major role in a person’s heart health. High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke. That is why it is important for all individuals to know their cholesterol levels. They should also learn about their other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
Health care providers, please visit our referral page to refer your patient to this service.
UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital - Pavilion GGill Heart & Vascular Institute800 Rose St.
Lexington KY 40536Fax 859-257-8699
People over the age of 20 should have a blood test to determine their cholesterol and triglyceride (another type of blood fat) levels. Young children whose parents have heart disease or who are identified to be at risk for developing heart disease should also be screened, but they must be at least 5 years old to tolerate blood sampling.
If you are a healthy person who has a high cholesterol level, you can reduce the risk of a first-time heart attack by changing your lifestyle and lowering your cholesterol. If you already have heart disease, lowering your cholesterol and making changes in your lifestyle can slow the progress of atherosclerosis and reduce the risk of future heart attacks.
Preparing for the test
Although a physician referral is not needed by our program, your health insurance plan may require it. Please check with your health care plan before your visit.
Please do not eat or drink anything except water for 12 hours (except that you should take your regularly scheduled medications) before your first appointment since we may request that you have a blood test. Depending on the outcome of your evaluation and the desire of your referring physician, you may be seen either only for an initial consultation or for continuing treatment.
What the results mean
In a cholesterol screening, a small sample of blood will be drawn from your arm. Your blood sample is then analyzed by a laboratory. The test will reveal the level of HDL and LDL. HDL is the generally "good" cholesterol that helps keep the LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol from getting lodged into your artery walls. A healthy level of HDL may also protect against heart attack and stroke, while low levels of HDL (less than 40 mg for men and less than 50 mg for women) have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. These general concepts with HDL hold for most current patient situations. However, we have now learned that not all HDL is good and the future may bring more specific tests.
If you need to increase your HDL to your reach your goals, studies show that regular physical activity and quitting tobacco use can help your body produce more HDL. Reducing trans fats (found in hydrogenated fats), and eating a balanced, nutritious diet is another way to increase HDL. If these measures are not enough to increase your HDL, your doctor may prescribe a medication designed to increase your HDL.
Although LDL has a role to play in the body, too much of it in the blood can clog arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
LDL cholesterol is produced naturally by the body, but many people inherit genes from their mother, father or even grandparents that cause them to make too much. Eating saturated fat, trans fats and dietary cholesterol also increases how much you have. If high blood cholesterol runs in your family, lifestyle modifications may not be enough to help lower your LDL blood cholesterol. Everyone is different, so work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that’s best for you.
Abnormal levels of total cholesterol – HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides – are called lipid disorders. One of the most common lipid disorders is hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol, which can lead to atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis, also known as arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, is a buildup of cholesterol on the inner walls of arteries. This buildup causes the artery to narrow and eventually can lead to heart attacks. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that the body both produces and obtains from certain foods you eat.
The major risk factors for coronary atherosclerosis have been known for some time. These risk factors include:
- Elevated cholesterol
- Cigarette smoking
- Diabetes mellitus
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Family history of coronary or other atherosclerotic disease in parents or siblings before age 55.
The aim of lipid therapy is to decrease the risk of heart disease by lowering harmful cholesterol levels. Our physicians often recommend patients make lifestyle changes, such as quitting tobacco products, eating a diet lower in fat, exercising and losing weight.
If lipid levels do not improve after three months of lifestyle changes, or if a person has coronary heart disease or blood lipid levels that are thought to be genetically determined, physicians may consider adding medical therapy to lifestyle changes.
Some of the medications include:
- Statins, which lower levels of LDL and triglycerides by blocking the liver from manufacturing cholesterol.
- Bile acid sequestrants block intestinal resorption of bile acids, resulting in lower LDL levels.
- Fibrates, which have been shown to lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
- Niacin or Vitamin B5, which appear to reduce the breakdown of triglycerides in the liver, in turn preventing fat storage and decreasing LDL.
- Omega fatty acids (fish oils) can reduce high triglyceride levels and thereby reduce LDL in association.