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Along with family history, unhealthy diet, weight gain and lack of exercise are contributing factors for most people with high cholesterol.
Cholesterol is the fatty substance in your blood that is latched on to particles called lipoproteins. “Lipo” means “fat” or “fatty.”
Doctors test the blood for three main types:
Your total cholesterol is a blend of the three. A higher total means a greater risk for heart disease. The aim of treatment is to boost HDL while lowering LDL and triglycerides.
Confused about what your cholesterol numbers mean? Those with average risk of heart disease should aim for these levels:
However, targets for LDL (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol vary from person to person, according to the American Heart Association. Your doctor can tell you what your ideal cholesterol numbers should be.
Here are some ways to help manage cholesterol:
If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may recommend medicine along with these changes. You and your doctor will decide whether you need medicine by checking your test results and all your other risk factors.
If you do need medicine, be aware that not all brand name drugs are covered by your health plan. To try to keep your costs lower, ask if a generic version of a prescribed drug is available. It's also a good idea to check the drug list for your health plan to see what cholesterol drugs are covered and share that information with your doctor.
Getting your recommended screenings is an important part of managing your cholesterol. You can take advantage of some important health screenings available at no cost when services are provided by a network provider.*
Some people have a family tie to a severe form of high cholesterol. The American Heart Association says this inherited condition affects 1 in 200 adults in the United States.
People with this condition have high cholesterol from birth but may have no symptoms until they have already developed serious heart problems.
Findings in this study and others show the value of knowing your family medical history and sharing it with your doctor.
Originally published 2/12/2020; Revised 2021, 2022, 2023
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