This month we're focusing on cholesterol, for National Cholesterol Education Month. So, it's a great time to check in with your doctor again, if an appointment is overdue, to make sure everything is as it should be.
If you have high cholesterol, it's important that you know all about the condition, and how it can affect your life. High cholesterol can produce serious complications, so the more you know about it, the better prepared you will be able to combat it.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance that is made in the liver. It is also found in certain foods such as meats, dairy products and eggs. Your body actually needs a certain amount of cholesterol, as it helps to produce hormones, vitamin D and bile acids that can digest fat. Without cholesterol, your body would be unable to function properly.
When is cholesterol dangerous?
The problems begin when you exceed the amount of cholesterol that is needed. When you have too much cholesterol in your bloodstream, thick deposits can form along the lining of the arteries. These deposits are called plaque. The buildup of this plaque can eventually lead to hardening of the arteries, which is called atherosclerosis. This is one of the main causes of heart disease.
As plaque builds up, the arteries will become narrower. This reduces the amount of oxygen rich blood that is circulated through the heart. When the heart does not get enough oxygen, you can experience angina, or chest pain. If the blood flow to a specific portion of the heart is completely cut off due to a blocked coronary artery, you will have a heart attack. This usually happens when a blood clot forms over the narrowed opening in the artery. You may survive the heart attack, however the portion of your heart, which lost blood flow, will be damaged.
Talking to your doctor
So, learning more about what your cholesterol numbers mean, and what you can do to improve your condition is a good idea. You can do that by reading websites like Health Central. But, for more specific advice, your doctor is your best source of information.
20 important questions you may want to ask your doctor about your cholesterol:
1. What do my cholesterol numbers mean?
2. What is the goal for my cholesterol numbers?
3. Do I have atherosclerosis?
4. How high is my risk for a heart attack?
5. What type of lifestyle changes can I make to reduce my cholesterol?
6. What type of foods should I eat?
7. What type of foods should I avoid?
8. Would you recommend I see a dietitian?
9. How much will exercise impact my cholesterol levels?
10. Do I need cholesterol lowering medications?
11. What are the risk factors associated with cholesterol lowering medication?
12. Do I need to lose weight?
13. Will losing weight help lower my cholesterol level?
14. How often do I need to get my cholesterol checked?
15. What signs or symptoms do I need to look out for when I have high cholesterol?
16. Will I have to stay on cholesterol medicine the rest of my life?
17. Can I drink alcohol with my cholesterol medicine?
18. Should anyone else in my family be tested for high cholesterol?
19. Do I have any other risk factors for heart disease?
20. Can I lower my cholesterol with lifestyle changes alone?
Asking these questions will help you to become well informed about what you need to do to manage your cholesterol. It's probably a good idea to bring a note pad with you, write down the main points you need to remember.
Remember, your health is your responsibility — when you become more informed, you can make better decisions about your health.
Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian, and author of Dietriffic.com. For more healthy eating tips visit her website.
Published On: September 14, 2010