High Blood Cholesterol
What is high blood cholesterol?
High blood cholesterol (hyperlipidemia) is a high level of lipids (fats) in your blood. These lipids include cholesterol or triglycerides. Lipids are made by your body, and they come from the foods you eat. Your body needs lipids to work properly, but high levels increase your risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
What increases your risk for high blood cholesterol?
- Family history of high lipid levels.
- Diet high in saturated fats, cholesterol, or calories.
- High alcohol intake.
- Lack of regular physical activity.
- Medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, obesity, or type 2 diabetes.
- Certain medicines, such as blood pressure medicines, hormones, and steroids.
Diagnosis & Treatment Options
How is high blood cholesterol managed and treated?
Your healthcare provider may first recommend that you make lifestyle changes to help decrease your lipid levels. You may also need to take medicine to lower your lipid levels. Some of the lifestyle changes you may need to make include the following:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Weight loss can decrease your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Decrease the amount of calories you eat by 500 calories a day to help you lose weight. Try to eat smaller portions for each meal and eat fewer high-calorie foods.
- Exercise regularly to lower your cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy weight. Get 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise four to six days each week. Include muscle strengthening activities two days each week, such as push-ups, sit-ups, and lifting weights. To lose weight, get at least 60 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. Work with your healthcare provider to plan the best exercise program for you.
- Do not smoke. Smoking increases your risk for a heart attack and stroke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you need help quitting.
- Eat heart-healthy foods. Talk to your dietitian about a heart-healthy diet. Decrease the total amount of fat you eat. Choose lean meats, fat-free or 1 percent fat milk, and low-fat dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese.
- Replace unhealthy fats with healthy fats. Unhealthy fats include saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Choose soft margarines that are low in saturated fat and have little or no trans fat. Healthy fats include monounsaturated fats, which are found in olive oil, canola oil, avocado, and nuts. Polyunsaturated fats are also healthy, and they are found in fish, flaxseed, walnuts, and soybeans.
- Include fish in your diet. Eat two servings of fish each week. One serving is about four ounces. Fish is a good source of healthy omega-3 fats. Choose fish with low levels of mercury, such as salmon and canned light tuna. Children and pregnant women should not eat fish that have high levels of mercury, such as shark, swordfish, and king mackerel.
- Eat fruits and vegetables every day. They are low in calories and fat and a good sources of essential vitamins. Include dark green, red, and orange vegetables.
- Eat foods high in fiber. Choose whole grain, high-fiber foods. Good choices include whole-wheat breads or cereals, beans, peas, fruits, and vegetables.
- Limit alcohol. Women should limit alcohol to one drink a day. Men should limit alcohol to two drinks a day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.
Preparing for Care
When should I seek immediate care or call 911?
If you have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
- Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest that lasts longer than five minutes or returns.
- Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm.
- Trouble breathing.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat, especially with chest pain or trouble breathing.
You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
- Numbness or drooping on one side of your face.
- Weakness in an arm or leg.
- Confusion or difficulty speaking.
- Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss.