High cholesterol levels are rarely accompanied by visible signs and symptoms. In rare cases, the person may develop physical signs, such as around the eyes and / or on the tendons, but they occur in a very small percentage of people. Typically, high cholesterol is diagnosed through screening and blood tests. If you are still diagnosed with high cholesterol, your doctor will prescribe a suitable course of treatment for you.
Part 1 of 3: Symptoms and Signs
Step 1. Find the yellow spots around the eyelids
These spots are called "xanthelasma". They occur with a specific type of high cholesterol called familial hypercholesterolemia (type 2 hyperlipoproteinemia).
- These yellow spots may or may not be raised.
- As a rule, they are located above or below the eye, often in both places at once.
- These spots are a sign of cholesterol deposits under the skin.
- It should be noted that this only occurs with certain high cholesterol syndromes. Most cases of high cholesterol go away without any symptoms or signs.
Step 2. Note the yellow deposits (swellings) in the tendons
These deposits are called "xanthomas" and they occur primarily in the tendons of the fingers. If these xanthomas develop in the palm, knees, and / or elbows, you may have type 3 hyperlipidemia.
- They often appear as bumps on the knuckles.
- There are a lot of them, and they appear in several places at once.
- Again, xanthomas occur only in certain high cholesterol syndromes. In most cases, high cholesterol occurs without any signs or symptoms.
Step 3. Beware of the appearance of a white or grayish-white arch in the eyes
It is called the corneal arch. As the name implies, this arch occurs on the cornea, the transparent outer shell of the eye. This change is most easily detected over the whites of the eyes, as the discoloration is most noticeable there.
Step 4. High cholesterol usually goes away without any symptoms or signs
The biggest difficulty in diagnosing high cholesterol levels is that in almost all cases, this disease occurs without any visible symptoms or signs. Therefore, doctors rely on a screening blood test to diagnose high cholesterol levels and plan the appropriate course of treatment.
Therefore, even if you have no visible symptoms or signs, it is recommended that you check your cholesterol level at least every five years with a simple blood test (check more often if you have a family history of high cholesterol and / or other risk factors)
Step 5. Become familiar with the risk factors
The chances that you will develop high cholesterol at some point in your life are proportionally dependent on your risk factors. The more of these factors you have noticed, the more often you should have a screening blood test. Beware of the following risk factors:
- Unhealthy diets high in fat and sugar
- Large waist
- Being overweight or obese
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Diabetes or cardiovascular disease
Part 2 of 3: What to Look for in Test Results
Step 1. Ask your doctor for a lipid profile
Since high cholesterol almost always proceeds without any symptoms or signs, the fastest and simplest test with which it can be detected is a blood test. Specifically, a lipidogram measures HDL cholesterol (“good”), LDL cholesterol (“bad”), total cholesterol, and blood triglycerides (another type of fat).
- This blood test is taken on an empty stomach. This means that 9-12 hours before the test, the patient is not allowed to eat or drink anything except water.
- You can eat and / or drink something right after your blood test.
- For this reason, most have a blood test in the early morning (without having dinner the day before) and eat breakfast immediately after the test.
Step 2. Learn how to interpret your blood test results
When the lab results come in, you'll want to know if it's worth worrying. Here's how to interpret your blood test results:
- HDL cholesterol ("good"): Poor values - below 1.036 mmol / L for men and 1.259 mmol / L for women. Good indicators are 1, 259-1, 528 mmol / l. Excellent indicators - above 1, 554 mmol / l. Oddly enough, HDL cholesterol is the only indicator where a higher value is a preferable option.
- LDL ("bad") cholesterol: below 1.813-3.341 mmol / L is acceptable (the recommended value depends on your general health and cardiovascular risk factors). 3, 367-4, 118 mmol / l is considered to be borderline high. More than 4, 144 mmol / l is considered an overestimated indicator.
- Total cholesterol: below 5, 18 mmol / L is an acceptable indicator, 5, 18-6, 19 is considered borderline high, and above 6, 216 is an overestimated figure.
- Triglyceride level: below 3.885 mmol / L is an acceptable level, 3.885-5, 154 is considered borderline high, and above 5, 18 is an overestimate.
Step 3. Be patient when taking tests again
If you've made changes to improve your cholesterol levels, you'll want to double-check your numbers to see how your new and healthier lifestyle has affected your cholesterol levels. It's just that, due to a change in diet or medication, some changes appear in the analysis results, it can take from two to three months. Don't want to be upset in vain? Let the body adapt to changes, and only after a while undergo a re-examination.
Step 4. Get screened at regular intervals
Since there is no other way to determine high cholesterol besides a blood test, you will need to have a blood screening test throughout your life. If your initial test results were good, it is recommended that you have a blood screening test every five years. If your first test results were borderline high, overestimated, or you suffer from risk factors or other diseases that may predispose you to high cholesterol levels, your doctor will advise you to have your blood tested more often.
- Children are recommended to have their first blood test between the ages of 9 and 11. The second test should be taken at the age of 17-21.
- Thereafter, screening can take place every five years, unless otherwise specified.
Part 3 of 3: Treating High Cholesterol
Step 1. Make changes in your lifestyle
Depending on how high your cholesterol is, your doctor will suggest you make lifestyle changes and start taking medications to lower your cholesterol. If you have borderline high cholesterol, lifestyle changes will be enough to bring your cholesterol back to normal. Positive changes include the following:
- More aerobic exercise. It is recommended to do three to five workouts per week, 30 minutes each. Aerobic exercise includes swimming, cycling, jogging, or brisk walking - anything that can raise your heart rate for 30 minutes or more. Specifically, exercise raises HDL (good) cholesterol levels, helping to improve overall cholesterol levels.
- Healthy eating. Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables and decreasing your fat intake can lower your cholesterol levels. In particular, it is fiber that can lower cholesterol, so increase your intake of sources of water-soluble fiber, which include oatmeal, beans, peas, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits and strawberries.
- Lose weight if you are overweight or obese. Talk to your doctor about safe weight loss methods and what your ideal weight should be. The ideal weight depends on your height and physique.
Step 2. Take statins
If lifestyle changes aren't enough to properly lower your cholesterol levels, your doctor will advise you to start treatment. As a rule, the first thing that is prescribed for low cholesterol is statins, for example, atorvastatin (Lipitor).
When you start treatment, your doctor will advise you to have regular blood tests to keep track of your cholesterol levels and the rate of improvement
Step 3. Continue the treatment throughout your life
If you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, you will most likely have to stick to positive lifestyle changes and medication throughout your life. If for any reason you stop treatment, the chances are very high that your cholesterol levels will rise.