Understanding High Cholesterol

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, an estimated 1 million Americans will suffer a coronary event this year alone. Pfizer’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall joins The Doctors to discuss the importance of knowing your cholesterol levels and thereby reducing your risk for developing life-threatening illnesses, such as heart disease or stroke.

“There are millions of people who have cholesterol that is high enough to put them at serious risk for developing heart disease and stroke,” Dr. Lewis-Hall says.

There are two types of cholesterol (a fatty, wax-like substance): HDL and LDL. HDL, considered the “good” type of cholesterol, aids in transporting excess cholesterol to the liver to cleanse the blood. LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, can build up in artery walls, eventually causing them to harden and the arteries to narrow, blocking the flow of blood. 

Dr. Lewis-Hall adds that high cholesterol often has no symptoms, so the only way to truly know if you’re at risk is to be tested and to understand how your levels may affect your health.

Risk factors that can contribute to high LDL cholesterol include:

  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Large waist circumference
  • Dietary factors
  • Lack of exercise
  • Diabetes

Katherine, a mother of two, joins Dr. Travis and Dr. Lewis-Hall to discuss how familial hypercholesterolemia, an inherited condition that causes high LDL levels, has affected her life. She describes how she was diagnosed with the condition at age 15 but didn’t firmly understand how it would influence her health until she suffered a heart attack at age 38. Now she advocates for early diagnosis of FH through her organization, the FH Foundation, which works to raise awareness for the underdiagnosed disorder.

ER physician Dr. Travis Stork explains that if you have high cholesterol, inherited or not, lifestyle changes like exercising and eating healthy can help keep LDL levels low. He adds that certain medications also can be prescribed to be used along with healthy lifestyle changes.

Dr. Lewis-Hall adds that although awareness is key, further research is also important to ascertain the best course of treatment for individuals with varying risk factors. She recommends that anyone interested should participate in clinical trials that potentially can help researchers save lives.

To learn more about high cholesterol and participating in clinical trials, visit GetHealthyStayHealthy.com.  

Sponsored in part by Pfizer.

 

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