Health Tip: Controlling Cholesterol

Control cholesterol, don’t let it control you.

Cholesterol can be both good and bad, so it's important to learn what cholesterol is, how it affects your health and how to manage your blood cholesterol levels. Understanding the facts about cholesterol will help you take better care of your heart and live a healthier life.

What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like, waxy substance found in the bloodstream and in all your body's cells. It's normal to have cholesterol and it’s an important part of a healthy body because it's used for producing cell membranes, hormones, and serves other needed bodily functions. But too much cholesterol in the blood is a major risk for coronary heart disease, which leads to heart attack. It's also a risk factor for stroke.

“Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women of all races and ethnicities in the United States,” said Dr. Phil Yphantides, a Sharp Rees-Stealy physician with the Family Medicine Department at Sharp Rees-Stealy Rancho Bernardo. “High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease which we can modify with diet, exercise, and appropriate use of medication. Approximately 80 to 88 percent of young heart attack victims have been found to have high LDL cholesterol, so dealing with this is very important.”

Good and Bad
Cholesterol comes from two different sources. The first source is your own body and the second source is cholesterol from animal products that you eat, such as meats, poultry, fish, eggs, butter, cheese and whole milk.

Cholesterol and other fats can't dissolve in the blood and must be transported to and from the cells by special carriers called lipoproteins. There are two kinds that you need to know about. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is known as the "bad" cholesterol. Too much LDL cholesterol can clog your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.

High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as the "good" cholesterol. Your body makes HDL cholesterol for your protection. It carries cholesterol away from your arteries. Studies suggest that high levels of HDL cholesterol reduce your risk of heart attack.

Know Your Cholesterol Level
Now that you know the difference between good and bad cholesterol, how do you find out your own levels? Your doctor can determine if your cholesterol level is too high by performing a simple blood test.

“The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends screening for high cholesterol at least once every five years for all persons 20 and over,” said Dr. Yphantides. “People should especially be screened if they have other known risk factors for coronary heart disease — these include a family history of heart attacks, increasing age, high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, obesity, diabetes mellitus, and low physical activity.”

Once test results are in, your doctor will carefully consider not only your cholesterol, but also your risk for heart disease when determining if you’re at a safe level. If your cholesterol is not at a safe level, your doctor will discuss ways to become healthier.

Get Tested Today
To make an appointment with a Sharp Rees-Stealy doctor to have your cholesterol tested, please call 858-4499-2600.

How to Choose Sharp Rees-Stealy

Sharp accepts almost all health insurance. For help choosing the Sharp Rees-Stealy physician who is right for you, please call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm, to speak to a physician referral nurse.