Cholesterol is a lipid, or type of fat, which is found in a person’s blood. The cells of the body require a certain amount of cholesterol to function properly, and the body can make all it could ever need. However, when an individual consumes several types of foods which are high in fat, cholesterol levels can increase to unhealthy, and in fact, detrimental levels. For example, when large amounts of cholesterol accumulate in an individual’s blood vessels and arteries it can create a hardening of the arteries known as atherosclerosis, in turn resulting in blood flow issues. Atherosclerosis can also cause swelling and blood clots which can influence the occurrence of heart attacks and strokes. There are two types of cholesterol: LDL and HDL. LDL cholesterol is “bad” and can increase the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. HDL is “good” and is connected to reduced risks of cardiovascular and stroke.
Several factors can influence high cholesterol levels. The foods consumed for example can significantly increase cholesterol levels if there are too many choices with high saturated fat or trans fat content. It is also important to get sufficient exercise as a lack of physical activity can actually reduce a person’s good cholesterol levels. Adults are recommended to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five days a week. Healthy diet and exercise choices help with another risk factor for high cholesterol levels, obesity. Being obese and carrying too much fatty body tissue can reduce the body’s levels of HDL cholesterol. Age and family history are both contributing factors, but there is not much a person can do to control his or her age or family history. These factors are indicators that cholesterol levels should be monitored regularly.
A blood test called a lipid panel conducted by the internist is the only way to determine if cholesterol levels healthy. This test determines the precise levels of the fats in an individual’s blood. High cholesterol frequently does not occur with symptoms, so important to get have regular cholesterol screenings during an annual exam from the age of 20.