High cholesterol, also known as hypercholesterolemia, is a common health condition that affects millions of people worldwide and is a leading contributor to the development of cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, screening for high cholesterol can be easily done through a simple blood test along with a visit with a senior health provider to determine an individual’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
What Exactly is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance present in the body that is essential for several important bodily functions, including hormone production, digestion, and the formation of cell membranes. However, an excess of cholesterol can accumulate in the blood, leading to high cholesterol levels. There are different forms of cholesterol that circulate in the blood and consist of:
Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL): Known as “bad” cholesterol since high amounts in the blood can lead to plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries.
High- density Lipoprotein (HDL): Known as “good” cholesterol since it can assist in removing excess arterial plaque and helps repair the inner lining of the arterial walls, which can lower the risk of arterial disease.
Triglycerides: This is the most common type of fat found in the body and can be stored as energy in cells for later use. When excess amounts of triglycerides circulate in the blood, the development of arterial plaque can occur, possibly leading to blockage.
Common Causes of High Cholesterol
High cholesterol can be influenced by various factors, including:
Diet: Consuming foods high in saturated and trans fats, such as red meat, full-fat dairy products, fried foods, and processed snacks, can raise cholesterol levels.
Sedentary Lifestyle: Lack of physical activity can contribute to high cholesterol levels. Regular exercise helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels by increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol.
Genetics: Some individuals have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol, called familial hypercholesterolemia. This condition causes significantly elevated cholesterol levels from birth and may require more intensive treatment.
Age and Gender: Cholesterol levels tend to increase with age, and men generally have higher cholesterol levels than premenopausal women. However, after menopause, women’s cholesterol levels often approach or even exceed those of men.
Smoking: Tobacco use has the potential to lower HLDs or the “good” cholesterol.
Having certain medical conditions can also lead to high cholesterol including:
Type 2 Diabetes: It is estimated that 70% of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have elevated cholesterol levels, thought to be due to poor clearance of excess cholesterol.
Obesity: Those who are overweight or obese tend to have higher triglycerides and LDL levels in their blood.
Does High Cholesterol Cause Symptoms?
High cholesterol itself does not cause any noticeable symptoms and can silently contribute to the development of various cardiovascular conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. Therefore, it is crucial to monitor cholesterol levels regularly and manage them proactively.
How is High Cholesterol Diagnosed?
For the diagnosis of high cholesterol, it is recommended that screening begins at the age of 20 and is rechecked every 4-6 years depending on the individual’s risk. Older individuals and those with chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity or those previously diagnosed with cardiovascular disease will likely have their cholesterol checked more often.
High cholesterol is usually diagnosed during a routine exam when a health care provider orders a blood test called a lipid panel. This exam measures the LDL, HDL, triglycerides, and total cholesterol in their blood.
High Cholesterol Treatment Options
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding tobacco usage, is fundamental after being diagnosed with high cholesterol. If lifestyle changes alone do not suffice, healthcare professionals may prescribe medication for seniors or recommend therapeutic procedures to manage high cholesterol levels effectively. Preventive care for seniors also may be recommended if signs of borderline high cholesterol appear.
Adopting a heart-healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, can help manage cholesterol levels. Regular exercise, weight management, and smoking cessation are additional lifestyle changes that can improve cholesterol levels.
In cases where lifestyle changes alone do not effectively manage high cholesterol, healthcare professionals may prescribe cholesterol-lowering medications such as statins, bile-acid-binding resins, ezetimibe, and PCSK9 inhibitors.
Therapies and Procedures
In some instances, individuals with extremely high cholesterol levels or those with familial hypercholesterolemia may require additional interventions such as LDL apheresis, where the blood is mechanically filtered to remove LDL cholesterol.
High Cholesterol Treatment at Greater Good Health
At Greater Good Health, we’re ready to empower you with the tools and expertise needed to tackle high cholesterol head-on through senior primary care. Don’t let this silent threat compromise your well-being any longer. Contact us today to get started with high cholesterol treatment for seniors.
Explore our senior healthcare services for high cholesterol. Your health is our top priority, and we are here to support you on your journey to lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease, and improve your overall quality of life.