High Cholesterol Screenings Vital to Curb Heart Disease

Risk factors can determine cholesterol levels, treatments offer ways to lower numbers

CONTACT: Todd Harper
Phone: 317-630-7808
Pager: 317-310-5972   
Email: todd.harper@wishard.edu

Indianapolis, November 13, 2012 -- Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released findings showing cholesterol screenings have significantly increased among Americans. Unfortunately, the findings also show large percentages of the population are still not getting the screenings they need. Specifically, people younger than 45 years of age tend to get screened much less than older Americans.

Whether it's hereditary, dietary or a combination of both, high cholesterol is a direct contributor to coronary heart disease, stroke and heart attack, according to the American Heart Association.

"Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women. The American Academy of Pediatrics even recommends that doctors check children’s cholesterol," said Dr. Elizabeth Kuonen, a physician at Wishard Health Services. "It's important to eat healthy, exercise regularly and take medicines, if needed, to prevent fatty deposits in the blood vessels."

Dr. Kuonen stressed that catching high cholesterol early can make a huge difference in preventing heart disease. Even if you’ve never have had a heart attack or do not suffer from high blood pressure, abnormal blood cholesterol levels may significantly raise your risk of heart failure, according to research reported in the Journal of the American Heart Association. In fact, most people with high cholesterol feel healthy and have no symptoms.

The first step is to determine if you have high cholesterol. Doctors recommend cholesterol testing to be done at least once every five years and starting at age 35 for men and 45 for women. Patients may need to be screened earlier and more frequently if they are at increased risk for heart disease. The test is used to track how well these measures are succeeding in lowering cholesterol to desired levels and, in turn, lowering the risk of developing heart disease.

Dr. Kuonen said it is important to ask your primary care physician what your cholesterol levels mean. A common misconception is that all cholesterol is unhealthy. There are two basic categories of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein, also known as LDL, is the “bad” type of cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein, also known as HDL, is the “good” type of cholesterol. It is important to get recommended blood readings to determine your cholesterol levels. While a general cholesterol total can be informative, doctors recommend checking both your LDL and HDL levels.

In addition, a number of health fairs offer free cholesterol screenings. It is important to make sure you understand what the numbers say about your health and to follow up with your primary care physician if the numbers cause concern.

There are many steps you can take immediately to lower your cholesterol and serious risks associated with high cholesterol, Dr. Kuonen said. Most importantly, these steps need to be taken immediately before more serious diseases develop later in life. Here are some important statistics:

  • One out of five Americans has high cholesterol.
  • High cholesterol affects 42 million Americans, and 63 million more have borderline high cholesterol.
  • Some cholesterol comes from the food you eat but the bulk of it is made in your body.
  • Cholesterol does have some good uses, such as hormone creation and cell function.
  • High cholesterol doesn’t cause any symptoms and is only detected by a blood test.
  • High cholesterol risks are not immediate and will only progress negatively over time.

Wishard has established a primary care network consisting of its Primary Care Center and nine Community Health Centers, offering an array of services including physical exams, prenatal care, social services, dental services and more. For more information on the services Wishard provides or to find a primary care physician, please call Health Connection at 317-655-2255.