Major Risk Factors: High Blood Cholesterol
The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute lists High Blood Cholesterol as one of the major risk factors for heart disease.
High blood cholesterol is another major risk factor that you can do something about. The higher a woman’s blood cholesterol level, the greater her chances of developing heart disease. The body needs cholesterol to function normally. However, your body makes all the cholesterol it needs.
Over a period of years, extra cholesterol and fat build up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup, called plaque, makes the arteries narrower. As a result, less blood gets to the heart. If not enough oxygen-rich blood can reach your heart, you may suffer chest pain. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off, the result is a heart attack.
LDL carries most of the cholesterol in the blood. LDL is often called “bad” cholesterol, because too much LDL in the blood can lead to cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries. HDL, known as “good” cholesterol helps remove cholesterol from the body, preventing it from building up in the arteries. Starting at age 20, all women should have their cholesterol levels checked by means of a blood test called a “fasting lipoprotein profile.”
The higher your LDL number, the higher your risk of heart disease. The lower your HDL level, the higher your heart disease risk. In general, the higher your LDL level and the more other risk factors you have, the greater your chances of developing heart disease or having a heart attack. The higher your risk, the lower your LDL goal level will be.
There are two main ways to lower your LDL cholesterol – through lifestyle changes alone, or though medication combined with lifestyle changes.