If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol, you may have heard a lot of medical terms associated with your diagnosis. Keep reading to learn more about what these terms mean and how they affect your health.1
What is High Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of fat found in your blood. It’s produced by the liver and also found in certain foods, including red meats and full-fat dairy products. Cholesterol is necessary for the body to function. Some of its functions include:
- Building and maintaining cells
- Insulating nerves and helping them work more efficiently
- Helping with digestion – the liver converts cholesterol into bile, which helps the body digest and absorb fats and vitamins
However, too much cholesterol can lead to fatty buildup in the arteries that put you at risk for heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease (PAD). As the amount of cholesterol in your blood rises, the risk to your health rises. This is why doctors check cholesterol levels routinely in adults over the age of 20.
What is my doctor testing for?
There are three types of fat in your blood that your doctor will screen for:
- LDL, or bad cholesterol – this type of cholesterol contributes to the buildup of fatty deposits
- HDL, or good cholesterol – higher levels of this type of cholesterol are actually beneficial; HDL helps to send LDL cholesterol back to the liver to be broken down so it won’t build up in the arteries
- Triglycerides – another type of fat found in the blood; high triglycerides and LDL combined with low HDL is an indicator of fatty deposits in the arteries
What conditions are associated with high cholesterol?
There are two conditions you may be diagnosed with based on high cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels:
- Hyperlipidemia – which means the overall level of fats (cholesterol and triglycerides) is too high
- Hypercholesterolemia – a type of hyperlipidemia in which cholesterol levels are too high
If your doctor determines that your levels are too high, they may prescribe medications and recommend lifestyle changes like diet changes, increasing physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking.
If you have questions about your diagnosis, or are concerned about side effects from your medication, talk to your doctor or call your CVS Specialty CareTeam.