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High Cholesterol (cont.)

What Increases Your Risk

Some things that increase your risk for high cholesterol are things you can change, but some are not. It's important to lower your risk as much as possible.

Things you can change include:

  • Eating foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
  • Being overweight.
  • Not being active every day.
  • Smoking.

Each of these things can raise your LDL, lower your HDL, or both.

Things you cannot change include:

  • Family history. If high cholesterol runs in your family, you may have it, and it may be harder to treat.
  • Age and gender.

For more information, see Cause.

When to Call a Doctor

High cholesterol usually has no symptoms. Sometimes the first sign that you have high cholesterol or other risk factors for heart disease is a heart attack, a stroke, or a transient ischemic attack (TIA). If you have any symptoms of these, call or other emergency services.

Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
  • Sweating.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, or one or both shoulders or arms.
  • Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
  • A fast or uneven heartbeat.

Symptoms of a stroke or TIA include:

  • Sudden numbness, paralysis, or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
  • New problems with walking or balance.
  • Sudden vision changes.
  • Drooling or slurred speech.
  • New problems speaking or understanding simple statements, or feeling confused.
  • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.

Who to see

Any of the following doctors, nurses, or specialists can order a cholesterol test and treat high cholesterol:

A registered dietitian can help you with a diet to lower your cholesterol.

People who have rare lipid disorders, which can be hard to treat, may need to see a specialist, such as a lipidologist or an endocrinologist.

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eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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