Cholesterol itself isn’t bad. In fact, your body needs cholesterol to produce hormones, vitamin D, and digestive fluids to help your organs function properly. However, having too much LDL cholesterol in your system can be a problem.
LDL cholesterol, also known as the “bad” cholesterol, can damage your arteries, contribute to heart disease and increase your risk of stroke. Over time, plaque buildup in the arteries can disrupt the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart – causing chest pain called angina. In today’s blog, you’ll learn how monitoring your cholesterol can treat chest pain and reduce your risk for heart disease.
(Download our free guide, 10 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Attack)
What is Angina?
Angina is the technical term for the discomfort or chest pain you experience when your heart isn’t receiving enough oxygen-rich blood. It can also feel like pressure or squeezing in the chest and can spread to other areas of the body like your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back. Angina can even feel like indigestion – which can make it difficult to differentiate heart disease from an upset stomach.
While Angina isn’t a heart attack, it’s still a disruption of blood to the heart. If plaque forms a clot within the artery, it can narrow or completely obstruct blood flow to the heart – resulting in a heart attack. If this occurs in any arteries leading to the brain, it can result in a stroke. So, you can see how it causes concern.
If the chest pain comes on suddenly or isn’t relieved by anti-inflammatory medication, it’s best to contact your doctor. Angina that isn’t caused by heart disease could still be a warning sign of other problems in the aorta, lungs or digestive organs.
Monitoring Your Cholesterol
As mentioned, cholesterol plays a huge role in the development of plaque. And because high cholesterol usually has no symptoms, it’s important to monitor your levels regularly. A simple blood test with your doctor can shed light on your cholesterol and guide decisions about your health.
During the test, a small sample of blood is taken. (The discomfort is minor.) If additional tests are needed, multiple samples are usually taken in a single setting. After the sample is taken, it’ll be analyzed in the lab to measure your HDL and LDL cholesterol as well as triglycerides. If your doctor doesn’t have you fast beforehand, your total cholesterol and HDL will be the only values reported.
To determine your risk for heart disease, your doctor will review your cholesterol levels in context with your age, gender, family history and lifestyle. Other risk factors they’ll consider include high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking. If your risk still remains uncertain, your doctor may request a coronary artery calcium measurement (also known as a heart scan) to provide greater insight into your health.
During this process, our GE Revolution CT Scanner captures multiple images of the heart and surrounding organs within a single heartbeat. This provides greater speed and accuracy compared to traditional testing methods. From there, our CT scan will calculate a coronary calcium score and predict your risk of heart attack. This will help your doctor direct any necessary changes to your eating habits, physical activity and lifestyle.
How often should I check my cholesterol?
According to the American Heart Association, adults over age 20 should have their cholesterol and other risk factors checked every four to six years. After age 40, your healthcare provider will calculate your 10-year risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. You can check your numbers beforehand using the AHA’s Check. Change. Control. Calculator.
If you have a family history of heart disease or are at an elevated risk, you may need your cholesterol checked more often. Your doctor can explain what this means and discuss treatment options if your numbers aren’t where they should be. Likely, they’ll direct changes in diet, exercise and have you monitor it at home.
Tip: Here are 5 heart-healthy cooking swaps to get you started.
Where should it be checked?
Your cholesterol is just one of many factors that affect your cardiovascular health. It’s best to have your doctor conduct the test first, as they already have an understanding of your family history and other risk factors. With modern technology, there are various tools and apps to help you track it moving forward.
Not all chest pain is a sign of heart disease. However, it may be a sign of high cholesterol, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Monitoring your cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index and blood sugar levels can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease. To learn more about heart health and our preventives scans, reach out to us today at (918) 879-6161.
10 Ways to Reduce Your Risk
After a first heart attack, many people go on to live a long, healthy life. But according to the American Heart Association, around 20 percent of patients will have a second within five years.
In this free checklist, we cover health topics like nutrition, exercise, cholesterol and blood pressure as well as heart medications. Click below to learn the 10 ways you can reduce your risk starting now.