Cholesterol

Steven L. Saunders, MD, LLC

Internal Medicine located in Milford, CT

More than 33% of men and women in the United States have unhealthy cholesterol levels, but only one in three adults has the condition under control. Because having high cholesterol levels can double your risk of developing heart disease, board-certified internist Steven L. Saunders, MD, MBA, FACP, provides short-term management solutions as well as long-term lifestyle strategies to help patients achieve and maintain healthy cholesterol levels. To learn more, call Steven L. Saunders, MD, LLC, in Milford, Connecticut, or book an appointment online today.

Cholesterol Q & A

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body uses to make healthy cells. It can also found be found in the lipids, or fats, that circulate through your blood. There are two main types of cholesterol:

High-density lipoprotein (HDL)

HDL cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol, picks up excess blood cholesterol and carries it back to your liver for processing.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)

LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, is the kind that accumulates on the walls of your arteries and makes them hard and inflexible.   

What constitutes high cholesterol?

Being diagnosed with high cholesterol means that either the levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood consistently measure above 160 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or your total cholesterol levels measure above 240 mg/dL.

Having abnormally low HDL cholesterol levels — or those that fall below 40 mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dL for women — is also considered unhealthy, especially when your LDL or total cholesterol levels are high.

What are the dangers of high cholesterol?

First and foremost, having high cholesterol significantly increases your risk of heart disease, which happens to be the leading cause of death in the United States. Heart disease risk is so much higher with high cholesterol that people with high cholesterol are twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who have healthy cholesterol levels.

Reducing your cholesterol levels, on the other hand, decreases your risk of developing heart disease, having a heart attack, or needing bypass surgery or angioplasty.

What causes high cholesterol?

For many adults, high cholesterol is a result of a combination of factors, ranging from unhealthy lifestyle choices to genetic disposition.

If you have a family history of high cholesterol, you may carry a genetic variation that makes it harder for your body to remove LDL cholesterol from your bloodstream.

Eating a diet that’s rich in saturated fats and trans fats can prompt your LDL levels to rise, while not getting enough exercise or physical activity can cause your HDL levels to decline.

Smoking cigarettes has a double-negative impact on your cholesterol, boosting dangerous LDL levels while simultaneously diminishing helpful HDL levels.

Many chronic medical conditions, from obesity and diabetes to hyperthyroidism and kidney disease, are also associated with high cholesterol.

How is high cholesterol treated?

Finding out you have high cholesterol is the first step in getting it under control. At Steven L. Saunders, MD, LLC, cholesterol testing is available to every patient regardless of their risk factors. If you have high cholesterol, it's thankfully a highly treatable problem that usually responds well to a combination of specific lifestyle changes and the right medication.

If your cholesterol isn’t excessively high and you don’t have other risk factors for heart disease like hypertension, you may be able to lower your levels without medication, just by switching to a heart-healthy diet, increasing your physical activity, managing your stress levels, and making other healthy lifestyle adjustments.

If your cholesterol is dangerously high, or if it’s moderately high, but your body doesn’t respond to lifestyle interventions quickly enough, Dr. Saunders may recommend statins, acid-binding resins, or another quick-acting medication.

To schedule your next cholesterol screening, call Steven L. Saunders, MD, LLC, or schedule an appointment online today.