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Cholesterol is a fatty substance in your blood, sometimes called a lipid.
Your liver makes some of it. Other cholesterol comes from meat and other foods you eat.
Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones and healthy cells. But too much can cause it to build up in your blood vessels. This can block blood from reaching vital organs like your kidneys.
Over 102 million Americans have unhealthy cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is common in people with heart and chronic kidney disease.
Your doctor can measure your levels by doing one or more blood tests.
There's more than one kind of cholesterol:
A number of factors can cause high cholesterol readings. Some you can change, and some you can't.
The following may increase your risk of having high cholesterol:
Yes. Complications stem from the plaque building up on the blood vessel walls.
High cholesterol can lead to health issues such as:
You can't change your genetic makeup or age.
But you can do many things to prevent or reduce high cholesterol, like:
UPMC offers state-of-the-art treatments for people with high cholesterol, especially as it relates to kidney disease.
We also have kidney clinics across Pennsylvania and in Maryland.
For the most part, symptoms are invisible.
Instead, you may have symptoms of kidney or heart disease, which are linked to high cholesterol.
The only sure way of knowing your cholesterol levels is to have routine blood tests. How often will depend on your age, family history, and risk factors.
A blood test measures total cholesterol levels plus the level of different types of cholesterol and fats in your blood. A total cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL is high.
You shouldn't eat for nine to 12 hours before your blood test.
You don't feel sick if you have high cholesterol, so it's easy to ignore it. But it's vital to get your levels under control before it causes heart or kidney problems.
UPMC doctors can help guide you with lifestyle choices and medication to treat your high cholesterol. Your doctor will talk to you about what treatment makes sense for your particular case.
Your doctor may suggest making some of the following lifestyle changes to help lower your cholesterol:
Your doctor will look at your cholesterol levels and other risk factors before prescribing medication.
Statins can lower cholesterol. They also reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Other drugs improve your cholesterol levels but don't lower the risk of a heart attack.
Some people take these if they can't take a statin:
It's vital to take medication for high cholesterol as prescribed, even if you feel well.
Talk to your doctor about taking any over-the-counter supplements. Some of them do not react well with statins.
And tell them about any side effects the medicine is causing.
If you're at high risk of heart or kidney disease, your doctor may suggest both medicine and lifestyle changes.