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Your blood is composed of many different kinds of organic materials, and one of these is a type of fat or lipid known as “cholesterol,” which is essential for the body. Too much cholesterol, however, can block arteries, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Moreover, having high cholesterol does not mean any symptoms will be apparent, which makes medical testing for cholesterol levels so important.
Cholesterol is typically measured through the use of blood tests that examine the level of total cholesterol present as well as other fats such as LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. The results of these tests, however, are not enough to adequately assess a given individual’s risk of problems associated with high cholesterol. For example, someone’s age or lifestyle habits can affect it as well. Good doctors, therefore, use a combination of other risk factors with test results to treat patients.
A number of things can cause high cholesterol, though poor diet tends to be the main culprit. A diet composed of saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol will naturally increase levels in the blood. Unfortunately, many delicious foods, including burgers, fried foods, and snacks, are heavy in fats.
Lack of physical exercise, obesity, age, and gender can have additional effects on cholesterol levels, while drinking alcohol and smoking are discouraged as well. Certain diseases, such as hypothyroidism or some forms of liver disease, can also raise cholesterol.
The two primary ways of lowering cholesterol levels are lifestyle changes and medicine. In many cases, prescription medication may work best, but anyone suffering from high cholesterol should look to implement better living habits. These mostly include incorporating a better diet and exercising regularly.
When high cholesterol leads to a more serious issue, including heart attack or stroke, working with a healthcare professional is critical.