Although high cholesterol isn’t talked about as much as other health issues, it’s a major concern that affects a large portion of the population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 94 million U.S. adults have high cholesterol, but many people don’t realize they have it since oftentimes there’s no symptoms and if left untreated, high cholesterol can lead to serious complications like a heart attack or stroke. Getting an annual check up is always recommended since you just need a simple blood test to determine if you have high cholesterol, but that said, there can be warning signs at times and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Raed Bargout, MD, Chief of Cardiovascular Disease at Glendale Memorial Hospital who shares what to look out for. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Dr. Bargout says, “Cholesterol is a natural waxy matter present in our food and is also made by our liver; so therefore healthy-eating people, including vegans, can see a “high cholesterol level” at times. A strong relation exists between high cholesterol levels and heart disease including heart attacks and stroke. Heart attack prevalence over the years has improved in general due to more recognition, effective treatment, and awareness of the risk of hyperlipidemia and other risk factors for progression of heart disease. Cholesterol is usually divided in your blood test to total Cholesterol, HDL (good Cholesterol), Triglyceride and LDL (bad Cholesterol). Among the riskiest scenarios is to have a high LDL and low HDL.”
According to Dr. Bargout, “High cholesterol rarely manifests as a disease itself and has no warning signs but is usually detected by doing a fasting blood test and hence routine office visits and discussion with your doctors are important in preventing heart disease. Hypertension is usually labeled as ‘the silent killer’ because uncontrolled hypertension rarely leads to symptoms yet can have a fatal outcome; but high cholesterol is as fatal as having untreated hypertension.”
Dr. Bargout tells us, “Yellow bumps (Xanthomas) are localized deposits of lipid (fat) clusters under the skin most commonly around the eye and on the eyelids and are often associated with high cholesterol levels and in return with higher risk of heart disease. Cholesterol levels should be checked in these individuals and treated based on your doctor’s recommendations.”
“Since 1967, abdominal obesity has been recognized to be linked with diabetes and high cholesterol,” says Dr. Bargout. “Medical professionals call it “Metabolic Syndrome” which includes hypertension and low HDL, or “good cholesterol.” A strong link exists between metabolic syndrome and the risk of heart disease. Obesity in general is on the rise in our society due to a variety of factors and with it comes a higher proportion of strokes and heart attacks.”
Dr. Bargout explains, “Shortness of breath might be a sign of an underlying clogged coronary artery; while the classical symptoms are usually chest pain, shortness of breath is more common in women or the elderly. It does require further investigation and should not simply be attributed to ‘getting older.”
Dr. Bargout states, “There are several things you can do to lower your cholesterol levels including losing weight, eating healthy, and being more physically active. When you start eating healthy and exercising, your cholesterol starts to drop within a few weeks. Stay away from packaged and processed food and saturated fats; look at food labels for more information regarding saturated fat, total fat and trans fat and keep in mind that some lower-fat items have the same number of calories as the full fat diet because of the added sugar.”