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What Does It Mean to Have High Cholesterol?

Natalie Stein
November 17, 2020
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High cholesterol affects about 1 in 9 Americans and is a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. High cholesterol is defined as total cholesterol over 240 mg/dl, with 200 to 240 mg/dl being mildly high, or LDL cholesterol being over 130 mg/dl.

Questions surrounding cholesterol can include why it is a problem, how to prevent or lower high cholesterol, and what a cholesterol-lowering diet can include. These are some facts on what it means to have high cholesterol.

1. Symptoms are unlikely to occur.


Like high blood pressure and prediabetes, high cholesterol rarely causes noticeable symptoms. Instead, a blood test can let you know whether you have high cholesterol. Most healthy adults should get cholesterol tested once every 4 to 6 years. Your doctor may suggest more frequent testing based on your own health conditions and risk factors.

2. Risk of heart attacks increases.


Heart attacks and strokes are among the best-known consequences of high cholesterol. They can result from the buildup of plaque in your arteries that is linked to having high levels of cholesterol in your blood vessels.

3. Diabetes risk increases.


The heart and the rest of the cardiovascular system may come to mind first when thinking about high cholesterol, but high cholesterol can also raise a red flag when it comes to blood sugar. Having high cholesterol is a risk factor for having prediabetes and increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. 

4. Plants are even better friends to you.


Plant-based foods are already great choices because of their vitamins and minerals, not to mention that they are friendlier for the environment than animal-source foods. If you have high cholesterol, you may be pleased to learn that plant-based foods have no cholesterol, and they often have healthy fats. 

Plant-based foods are the only natural sources of dietary fiber, which blocks absorption of cholesterol from food into your body. Animal-based foods, such as dairy products and meat, have no fiber. Some plant-based foods also contain phytosterols. Fiber and phytosterols help explain why a vegetarian diet can help lower cholesterol levels. Whole grains, nuts, fruit, vegetables, and beans are all good choices.

5. There’s a cholesterol-lowering diet – for you!


Weight loss diets are not one-size-fits-all, and neither are cholesterol-lowering diets. Whether you opt for Mediterranean, vegan, or taking-it-one-choice-at-a-time diets, you can pick and choose the foods you like the most. The important things are to make your meal plan sustainable for the long-term, and to include nutritious foods more often than less-nutritious ones. Lark DPP can help steer you towards healthier choices to lower diabetes risk and cholesterol levels.

6. Weight loss can help.


Losing weight can lower high cholesterol by 25 to 40 mg/dl, and without side effects that medications can cause. Lose weight your way with Lark as you explore ways to make small changes that fit into your lifestyle and turn those choices into healthy habits that keep off the pounds.

7. It may be time to get moving.


Physical activity can lower LDL cholesterol by clearing it from the body. It can also raise levels “good” HDL cholesterol, which helps clear unhealthy fats from the body. Low HDL cholesterol affects 1 in 6 adults, including 1 in 4 men. Walking, jogging, bicycling, gardening, and anything else that gets your heart rate up for a while can raise HDL cholesterol.

8. Medications may be necessary.


Nearly half of Americans with high cholesterol do not take cholesterol-lowering medications, but they have been shown to be effective in lowering heart attacks and strokes on a population levels. If you have high cholesterol, it is best to talk to your doctor about taking medications. In many cases, they can make the lifestyle changes you are making more effective while lowering health risks.

Having high cholesterol is a warning sign that your body may need some extra love and care. A healthier diet and lifestyle can help, and Lark DPP can help with the changes needed to manage cholesterol and lower risk for type 2 diabetes. Check with your health insurance to see if Lark may be available to you to help you take charge of your health.

Author
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health