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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.

Heart attack symptoms 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 in one or both shoulders or arms.
  • Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
  • A fast or irregular heartbeat.

After you call , the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.

Nitroglycerin. If you typically use nitroglycerin to relieve angina and if one dose of nitroglycerin has not relieved your symptoms within 5 minutes, call . Do not wait to call for help.

Women's symptoms. For men and women, the most common symptom is chest pain or pressure. But women are somewhat more likely than men to have other symptoms like shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain.

Stroke and TIA symptoms include:

  • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
  • Sudden vision changes.
  • Sudden trouble speaking.
  • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
  • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
  • 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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