High cholesterol is a leading risk factor for heart disease. Unfortunately, nearly 37 million Americans have high cholesterol and another 105 million have cholesterol levels higher than desirable.
The good news, says Ihab Hajjar, M.D., associate director of the Cardiovascular Research Program at Hebrew SeniorLife's Institute for Aging Research, is that lifestyle changes and medications can lower blood cholesterol. In fact, a 10 percent reduction in cholesterol levels throughout the U.S. population would decrease the heart disease rate by 30 percent.
- A condition in which a person's total cholesterol is at or above 240.
- High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad cholesterol), which transports cholesterol throughout the body and builds up inside the walls of arteries.
- Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or good cholesterol), which helps clear excess cholesterol from the blood.
- High cholesterol produces no symptoms
- Physical inactivity
- Diet (high-fat, high-cholesterol foods)
- Smoking (which may lower HDL levels)
- High blood pressure
- Type II diabetes
- Family history of atherosclerosis
- Blood test for total cholesterol (below 200 mg/dl is desirable; 200 - 239 mg/dl is borderline high; 239 and over mg/dl is high) and LDL cholesterol (below 100 mg/dl, especially if the individual has heart disease)
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitors
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitor-plus-statin combination
- Smoking cessation
- Lowering other risk factors, such as blood pressure, and improving blood sugar if diabetic.
Atherosclerosis - a condition in which fatty material is deposited along the walls of arteries that thickens and eventually blocks the arteries.
Cholesterol - a waxy, fat-like substance in every cell in the body and in many foods.
Cholesterol absorption inhibitor - a drug that limits the absorption of dietary cholesterol.
Cholesterol absorption inhibitor-plus-statin combination - a drug that decreases both the absorption of dietary cholesterol in the small intestine and the production of cholesterol in the liver.
Heart disease - any of a number of conditions that affect the structure and function of the heart.
High blood pressure - a medical condition in which blood pressure (the force applied to the walls of arteries as the heart pumps blood through the body) is consistently higher than 140/80.
High-density lipoprotein - the "good" form of cholesterol that removes cholesterol from the blood.
Low-density lipoprotein - the "bad" form of cholesterol that in high levels can deposit on the walls of blood vessels and form plaques that restrict blood flow.
Resins - drugs that lower cholesterol by binding to bile acids in the intestinal tract.
Statins - drugs that work directly on the liver to block a substance needed to make cholesterol.
Triglycerides - a type of fat carried in the blood high levels of which can cause heart disease.
Type II diabetes - a chronic medical condition that results when the body does not produce enough insulin, a hormone that helps to metabolize carbohydrates, to maintain normal blood sugar levels or when cells don't respond appropriately to the insulin that the body does make.
American Heart Association - www.americanheart.org
National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute - www.nhlbi.nih.gov
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