Why Is High Cholesterol Such a Big Deal?

Although the link between cholesterol numbers and heart disease was uncovered in the early 1960s, the dietary connection wasn’t really taken seriously by the general public until the 1980s. As cardiovascular research continued, more was revealed regarding consumption of dietary fats and cholesterol, naturally occurring cholesterol (your liver makes it), and how this complex component of healthy cells can transform your cardiovascular system into a ticking time bomb.

Cholesterol 101

In order to understand why you should take cholesterol seriously, it’s necessary to know what cholesterol is and how it contributes to heart disease. Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance found in every cell in your body. It has a role in producing vitamin D and hormones and helps your body digest food. Your body can make all the cholesterol you need to perform these tasks. 

Just like humans, animals also make cholesterol for the same purpose. When you use those animals for food, you ingest the cholesterol. Foods such as meat, dairy, and egg yolks contribute to dietary cholesterol.

When you consume cholesterol, especially in large amounts, the waxy, sticky substance can collect in your blood. Excess cholesterol combines with other substances in your blood to create plaque that can line your artery walls, narrowing the passageway for blood to circulate and straining your heart.

This condition is called atherosclerosis, a precursor to coronary artery disease, which causes blockages and poses a significant risk to your heart and cardiovascular well-being.

Types of cholesterol

At Personal Primary Care, when we recommend that you know your numbers, we mean you should know your blood pressure, your A1c (which measures your risk for diabetes), and your cholesterol levels. You learn your cholesterol numbers with a simple blood test. 

A fasting lipid profile gives you a breakdown of your cholesterol by lipid types:

Triglycerides

Your fasting lipid panel also measures triglycerides in your blood. Triglycerides are a type of fat that circulates through your bloodstream, posing a serious threat to your heart and overall health. Triglycerides aren’t cholesterol; however, they are a lipid and an indicator of your risk for heart disease. For your best heart health, your triglycerides should measure below 150 mg/dL.

Dealing with the “big deal”

Cholesterol is a big deal, as it can pose a significant threat to your heart. If you don’t get high cholesterol under control, you’re at risk for suffering from a stroke or heart attack or developing peripheral artery disease and other vascular conditions. 

Certain lifestyle changes can go a long way toward lowering your cholesterol. Changing your diet — incorporating more plant-based foods, eliminating processed foods, increasing fiber, cutting back on alcohol — and increasing your physical activity are a good start. Cholesterol-lowering medication may be necessary, but possibly only temporary.

If you’re in Longmeadow or Springfield, Massachusetts, contact Personal Primary Care to find out your cholesterol numbers. Our caring and compassionate staff partners with you for your good health so you can live your best life.

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