Facts about High Cholesterol

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., ACCESS Media Relations Specialist
November 6, 2015

​What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance in your blood that helps the body create hormones and vitamin D and aids in digestion. High cholesterol occurs when there is a high amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream, causing it to build up in the blood vessels that carry oxygen to the heart. When this happens, the heart has to work harder to pump blood through the cholesterol-clogged arteries.

Risk Factors

Approximately one in every six adults in the United States has high cholesterol.  High cholesterol itself does not have symptoms, which is why many people do not even know that they have it. This is why it is important to know if you could be at risk, as high cholesterol is one of the most controllable risk factors for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Factors that can increase your risk for high cholesterol include age, sex, a history of high cholesterol in your family or lifestyle choices.

Diagnosing High Cholesterol

Adults should get their levels tested at least once every five years by their doctor, who is able to measure levels through a simple blood test. The doctor will evaluate both levels of "good" cholesterol (HDL) and "bad" cholesterol (LDL) to determine if the levels fall within the healthy range.

Preventing and Treating High Cholesterol

A healthy lifestyle can prevent and treat high cholesterol. Eating healthy, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking can greatly lower your cholesterol levels. However, your doctor also may prescribe a medication to lower cholesterol levels to supplement a healthy lifestyle change. Ask your doctor about what may be right for you.

Schedule a checkup today to find out your cholesterol levels at one of our 35 ACCESS health centers located throughout Cook and DuPage counties.  ​