What Causes High Cholesterol?

Medical form with words cholesterol
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In 2011–2012, 78 million U.S. adults (nearly 37%) had low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels that fall in the range where experts recommend cholesterol medicine or had other health conditions putting them at high risk for heart disease and stroke.1 Cholesterol is a waxy substance your body needs to build cells. So, while cholesterol alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing, having too much in your system increases the chances that cholesterol will start to slowly build up in the inner walls of arteries that feed the heart and brain.

Main Causes of High Cholesterol2

  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Excess weight

In addition, some people inherit genes that can cause them to have too much cholesterol.

Good vs. Bad Cholesterol

  • LDL (Bad) Cholesterol: Contributes to fatty buildups in arteries. Plaque buildup narrow arteries and raise the risk for heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease
  • HDL (Good) Cholesterol: Carries LDL cholesterol away from arteries back to the liver, where its then broken down and passed from the body. HDL can help decrease the risk of heart disease.

Symptoms of High Cholesterol

Unfortunately, high cholesterol usually has no symptoms. It’s important as an adult (age 20+) to get tested once every 4 to 6 years.

Treatment of High Cholesterol

Working with your health care provider can lower your cholesterol, which will reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Lifestyle changes such as eating a heart-healthy diet, regular exercise, avoiding tobacco and losing weight (if overweight or obese) are all things that can lower your cholesterol.  However, these lifestyle changes may not work for everyone, in which case, there are many medications available. Statins are recommended for most patients, but your doctor may consider other options as well.

 

If you have any additional questions regarding your medications,

reach out to the Tria Health Help Desk: 1.888.799.8742

 

Sources:

  1. Mercado C, DeSimone AK, Odom E, Gillespie C, Ayala C, Loustalot F. Prevalence of cholesterol treatment eligibility and medication use among adults—United States, 2005–2012. MMWR. 2015;64(47):1305–11.
  2. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/CausesofHighCholesterol/Causes-of-High-Cholesterol_UCM_001213_Article.jsp#.WyAVQvZFyHt

Supplements & Blood Thinners

Many people take some type of over the counter product on a daily basis and consider this a safe and natural way to treat or prevent disease.  In many cases this can be true, but “natural” supplements and vitamins can cause side effects and worsen conditions in some cases.

Fish oil can be used to help lower triglycerides and reduce heart disease risk. However, this common supplement can also thin blood slightly and in some people actually raises their LDL, or bad cholesterol, too high.  Vitamin E, which many people take for its antioxidant properties, is similar to fish oil in that it too can effect platelet function and thin blood.  On their own this is usually not a problem, but when taken in combination with Aspirin, an antiplatelet medication like Clopidogrel (brand name: Plavix), or a blood thinner like Warfarin (brand name: Coumadin) this can increase the risk of bruising and bleeding.  Sometimes this can even lead to severe bleeding issues.

Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before adding any herbal supplement or vitamin to your daily medication routine.