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Hypercholesterolemia

What is it?

Hypercholesterolemia (hi-per-ko-LES-ter-all-e-mee-uh) ) means having too much cholesterol in your blood. Cholesterol is a type of fat that the body uses as a building block to make hormones and other important compounds. There are two main types of cholesterol. One is low density lipoprotein (LDL) and often called "bad" cholesterol. The other is high density lipoprotein (HDL) and is often called "good" cholesterol. LDL damages the walls of the arteries and attaches to them, causing hardening of the arteries. HDL scoops up cholesterol deposits in the arteries and sends them back to the liver for disposal.

Causes:

We eat cholesterol in our diets from animal foods. We can also make cholesterol from the food we eat. Most of us make considerably more cholesterol than we eat. Therefore, even though diet does play an important level, genetics may play an even larger role. An underactive thyroid gland may also cause increased cholesterol levels.

Signs and Symptoms:

Most people have no signs or symptoms of a high cholesterol. Since high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes, the first signs or symptoms can be a heart attack or a stroke.

Wellness Recommendations:

Regular exercise can lower cholesterol and raise HDL levels and decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke. Do not smoke! Smoking increases the risk of problems from hypercholesterolemia. Controlling your stress may help to decrease your cholesterol.

Medical Care:

  • Eat food that is low in animal fats (which contain cholesterol) and that is low in saturated fats (coconut oil, palm oil, and hydrogenated oils).
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Medicine may be used to decrease your cholesterol.
  • You may have a blood test to check your thyroid gland. Sometimes an underactive thyroid gland can cause high cholesterol.

Dietary Measures:

Ask your caregiver for more information about a healthy heart diet. This diet means eating the right foods to control your weight and lower your risk for heart disease. Eating low fat foods and high fiber foods helps control the amount of cholesterol in your blood. This helps prevent hardening of the arteries and heart attacks. You also need to avoid high sodium (high salt) foods. This helps to control your blood pressure and also improves the health of your heart.

Keep your fat intake to 30% or less of your calories. Eat mostly low fat foods and avoid high fat foods. Other suggestions for eating a healthy diet include:

  • A vegetarian diet decreases cholesterol.
  • A high calcium diet helps to lower cholesterol.
  • Use avocado as a spread instead of butter or margarine. Avocado may decrease blood cholesterol.
  • Beans may decrease cholesterol.
  • Soybeans or soy products decrease cholesterol.
  • Remove fat from all meats before cooking. You should also remove the skin from poultry. Do not fry meat, fish, or poultry. Instead, bake, roast, boil, or broil these foods.
  • Always choose low fat or fat free dairy products. Fat free foods may be used as often as you like as long as you do not eat too many calories.
  • If you buy margarine, choose one that is soft or in a squeeze bottle. Buy only margarines that have liquid oils as the first and second ingredients listed on the food label. Avoid margarines and other foods that contain hydrogenated oils.
  • If you buy packaged foods, choose those with less than 25% of calories as fat.
  • Eat less than 2000 milligrams (mg) sodium every day.
  • Do not use salt when cooking or eating food.
  • Many stores have low sodium cheese, soup, crackers, bread, salad dressing, and snack chips.
  • Choose low sodium products if you buy frozen or canned foods. Frozen meals should have less than 400 milligrams (mg) of sodium in each serving.
  • Fiber helps to decrease cholesterol. Try to eat 25 to 35 grams of fiber every day. Slowly increase the amount of fiber you eat.

Herbs and Supplements:

Before taking any herbs or supplements, ask your caregiver if it is OK. Talk to your caregiver about how much you should take. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the label. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to. The herbs and supplements listed may or may not help treat your condition.

Herbs:

    Supplements:

      Other ways of treating your symptoms : Other ways to treat your symptoms are available to you.

      Talk to your caregiver if:

      • You would like medicine to treat hypercholesterolemia.
      • Your symptoms have not gone away or improved by these self-help measures.
      • You have questions about what you have read in this document.

    SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:

    • You have crushing chest pressure or pain in the center of the chest that spreads to your shoulders, arms, jaw, neck, or back. The pain may be like a burning feeling that feels like heartburn. Chest pain may last more than a few minutes or the pain may go away and come back.
    • You have cold sweats or sweating.
    • You are short of breath.

    Care Agreement:

    You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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    Last Updated: 4/4/2014

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