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During this month of heart health awareness, I want to bring attention to some of the most common conditions that contribute to heart disease. Today I want to talk about cholesterol levels in the blood.
High cholesterol levels are a concern because of the potential damage they could cause in the body. Cholesterol can become a problem if it contributes to the process of plaque buildup in the blood vessels.
When blood vessels get damaged on the inside of the vessel normal inflammation occurs. If there are high levels of cholesterol circulating in the body it can become trapped in the repair process of the vessel and create plaque.
Plaque is dangerous because it narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to get to organs and cells of the body. This process is called atherosclerosis.
If the blood vessels of the heart get narrowed or blocked this can cause a heart attack. Finally if the plaque breaks off it could cause a stroke.
High cholesterol, or hypercholesterolemia is a concerning disease because it has no physical symptoms and can only be detected by blood test. This means that unless you are going for your annual physical and getting your blood work completed, you will not know what your cholesterol level is.
It is important when you do get your lab work results that you get the numbers of your cholesterol levels so you know exactly what they are. Do not let your doctor tell you your numbers are fine and leave it at that.
The reason I want you to know your numbers is because health and illness are on a continuum and generally speaking if you look at your lab work every time you get it done you can begin to see a pattern for your health.
If you start to see your cholesterol levels steadily moving toward the high side of normal you can take control of your health before you get the diagnosis of high cholesterol or another heart problem.
Normal laboratory reference ranges for total cholesterol levels are 140-199 mg/dl. Total cholesterol levels above 200 mg/dl are considered high and generally will be treated to lower it.