Managing cholesterol and lipids (fatty or waxy substances in the blood) is one of the tried-and-true ways to help prevent stroke and heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that everyone over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol checked. This type of screening is especially important for older people, or those who have risk factors such as diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure. At one time, it was thought that all cholesterol was bad. We now know that there is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. HDL is the good cholesterol. LDL is the bad cholesterol, which builds up on the walls of blood vessels, narrowing the channel through which blood flows. Over the years, this build-up can break away in the form of clots, which can cause blockage and prevent blood from flowing to the heart.
At our Miami clinic, we do routine screening for cholesterol and triglycerides. These tests enable us design a lipid management plan. Taking a blood sample and having it analyzed in the lab is a big first step in helping you avoid cardiovascular disease.
If your total cholesterol is 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or lower, you fall into the normal range. Total cholesterol of 201-240 is borderline. Anything higher than 240 bears watching.
The most effective way to prevent disease is to take action to lower your LDL cholesterol. Patients who have already had a cardiac incident or treatment– such as heart attack, stroke, angina, angioplasty, stent, or bypass– need to pay special attention to managing their cholesterol and lipids.
Another risk factor is diabetes. Smokers and people with high blood pressure are also more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease. Age is a factor, and men are more prone than women.
Diet and exercise are two lifestyle therapies that we endorse. If the levels fail to respond to lifestyle changes, there is a class of medication called statins that are effective in lowering cholesterol. Your blood test to analyze your lipid profile and cholesterol must be performed after you’ve fasted (nothing to eat) for at least 12 hours.