High cholesterol is a common health problem in the United States, with about 86 million adults age 20 or older having high cholesterol (total blood cholesterol ≥ 200 mg/dL) . Unfortunately, many people with high cholesterol often don’t realize it because there are often no immediate symptoms associated with raised cholesterol levels.
Keep reading to learn more about cholesterol, the importance of understanding one’s numbers, and how it can offer insight into heart disease and stroke risk and enable individuals to make more informed healthcare decisions.
The benefits of understanding cholesterol levels
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the lipids in your blood. Although cholesterol is an important part of building the body's healthy cells, too much can increase the risk of heart disease. High cholesterol levels can cause fatty deposits to develop in blood vessels, making it harder for blood to flow through the arteries. When this occurs, the heart may not get enough oxygen-rich blood as it needs
High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in the United States. It’s vital to monitor cholesterol levels and know what you can do to keep them at a healthy level.
Important cholesterol levels to measure
Knowing your cholesterol numbers is important in assessing your cardiovascular disease risk.
Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid). While some triglycerides are necessary for your body to gain energy and function as it should, high levels (hypertriglyceridemia) can increase the risk of atherosclerosis and other diseases.
Total cholesterol is the total amount of cholesterol that’s circulating in your blood. It represents the combined amount of "bad" cholesterol (low-density, or LDL) and "good" cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL) in your blood.
HDL is high-density lipoprotein. It is the “good” cholesterol that moves extra cholesterol from the bloodstream to the liver which then rids it from the body. HDLs help the arteries clear out the cholesterol the body doesn’t need.
LDL is low-density lipoprotein. It is the “bad” cholesterol that contributes to plaque buildup in arteries. Some LDLs are needed because they carry cholesterol to the body’s cells. But, having too much leads to a buildup of cholesterol in arteries, raising heart disease and stroke risk.
Lipoprotein(a) or Lp(a) is a type of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) made in the liver that carries cholesterol to the cells in your arteries. Lp(a) levels are mainly determined by your genetic makeup and are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. While Lp(a) is not routinely included when getting cholesterol checked, it offers important insight into one’s risk for heart disease, stroke, and other blood vessel diseases.
Make cholesterol testing easy with LetsGetChecked
Understanding cholesterol levels enables individuals to take an active role in lowering their risk for cardiovascular disease. LetsGetChecked’s easy cholesterol and diabetes testing, now with Lipoprotein(a), enables individuals to skip the need for appointments & long wait times at the physician's office.