September 14, 2020 2:55 pm
By: Dr. Timothy Noyes, Internal Medicine Physician at Magnolia Internal Medicine Clinic
Cholesterol levels are one of the most commonly discussed topics at a doctor’s visit.
When you see your doctor, they will likely review your total cholesterol level, which includes LDL, HDL, and triglycerides, with you. In this article, we will focus on the LDL.
While cholesterol level is an important risk factor for heart disease, I want to remind you that several other important risk factors exist including diabetes, smoking, hypertension, obesity, age, gender, and genetics.
Cholesterol is a substance present in all people and is essential for normal cellular function.
However, some forms of cholesterol can also contribute to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the build up of plaque in blood vessels that leads to blood vessel narrowing. The blood vessel narrowing and the instability of plaque inside the blood vessels in turn increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and blockages in the legs.
The type of cholesterol that is most important in contributing to atherosclerosis and unstable plaque is known as Low Density Lipoprotein, or more commonly called LDL. This is what your physician will refer to as your ‘bad’ cholesterol because of its role in increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. The LDL is therefore the most common target of cholesterol medications.
So, how do we decide whether or not to recommend medication treatment of LDL in patients who don’t already have known vascular disease? By current guidelines, we utilize a tool called the ASCVD risk calculator. Data like your age, smoking status, blood pressure and other variables can help us predict what your risk is of having a heart attack or stroke over the next 10 years and in your lifetime. Based on your risk, your provider can then enter a shared decision making process with you to determine if medication is the best thing to do for you.
If you haven’t seen your doctor and discussed your cholesterol level, I strongly advise you do so.
This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center