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High cholesterol is a common issue among Americans. While everyone has a certain amount of cholesterol in their body, too much cholesterol could lead to serious complications like stroke and heart disease. Coordinated Health Cardiologist Stephen Ksiazek, M.D. describes cholesterol as a “naturally occurring fatty substance that is normally present in every cell of your body.” He explains that cholesterol is necessary in order to continue to build certain cells.
In most cases, there are no symptoms or warning signs associated with high cholesterol. The only way to diagnose it is through a blood test. The age at which you should be tested varies. Some medical professionals recommend that everyone over the age of 20 be tested, while others believe it may be ok for men to wait until the age of 35 unless there is a family history of high cholesterol.
According to Dr. Ksiazek, high cholesterol has a variety of causes. “Some rare individuals have specifics genetic metabolic abnormalities that predispose to early high cholesterol levels. For some people, medical conditions like low thyroid function or medication usage. Finally, cholesterol can be absorbed through the intestines and the food in your diet,” he says.
Dr. Ksiazek says that how doctors are determining high cholesterol has changed over the years. “While in the past people have looked at what the total cholesterol has been, more recently, doctors who treat patients with high cholesterol and conditions associated with it focus more on a particular type of cholesterol, the so-called LDL cholesterol, considered to be the “bad” type of cholesterol, when making decisions about treatment,” he says.
When it comes to the treatment of high cholesterol, Dr. Ksiazek first attempt is to encourage his patients to make dietary changes. He suggests his patients with high cholesterol moderate their intake of certain foods like cheese, egg yolks and beef. If that doesn’t work he says the next step is medication.
Dr. Ksiazek encourages people with high cholesterol or a family history of high cholesterol to see a cardiologist. “Cardiologists are often among the physicians most familiar with the best reasons for treating cholesterol and can offer the drugs that have the most potential to help,” he says.