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High Cholesterol


* High cholesterol symptoms

It may be surprising to learn that there are virtually no symptoms to diagnose if you have high cholesterol. High cholesterol is normally identified by a blood test. However, if you are having health issues such as coronary disease, vascular disease or stroke, then this could be the end result of a high cholesterol level in your body and you should consider cholesterol screening. And since high cholesterol symptoms often become evident themselves when you have coronary disease, you should consider high cholesterol symptoms to include angina, which manifests itself in chest pains caused by a lack of adequate blood supply to the heart muscle, nausea, and shortness of breath. Vascular disease cholesterol symptoms include a tightening sensation in the lower extremities and ulcers or open sores on the lower extremities.

High cholesterol level symptoms indicated by stroke symptoms include a loss of balance and dizziness, slurring of speech and difficulty in understanding, a numbing sensation of the face, arm or leg. These can be a sudden event with little or no warning. People who are overweight and do little or no exercise tend to be the ones with a high cholesterol level. Therefore, before you experience high cholesterol symptoms, it is recommended that you have a cholesterol blood test every three years if you are overweight and every five years if you are a normal healthy weight.

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* Cholesterol screening for high cholesterol

Public high cholesterol screening can detect large numbers of people with high cholesterol levels. Cholesterol screening can also raise awareness of a high cholesterol level as a risk factor for coronary heart disease. But public cholesterol screening must meet ethical criteria for recruitment and be reliable in cholesterol screening measurements. Preferably High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol as well as total cholesterol should be measured when cholesterol screening. However, if HDL measurements aren't available, then measuring total cholesterol levels provides useful high cholesterol level information.

The American Heart Association is also concerned about potential dangers of poorly conducted community cholesterol screening programs. The association recommends small-scale high cholesterol screenings among the high-risk population of middle-aged men and women and particularly younger males not yet identified as being at risk of a high cholesterol level. Worksite high cholesterol screening held in conjunction with hospitals, health clubs, or medical schools are a potential cholesterol screening option. Cholesterol screening targeting low-income, low-education level sectors of society can reach people often under-represented in other voluntary cholesterol screening sessions. High-risk people are often not connected to traditional healthcare systems, so such screenings can be held in schools, community centers or neighborhood clinics. It is important that qualified staff carry out these high cholesterol screenings.

The American Heart Association believes that high cholesterol screenings should be at a reasonable cost and held at convenient locations and that quality-control procedures and privacy issues are taken care of. The medical assistant staff in these locations are trained in an online school to give you proper screenings. Finally, people with a family history of heart disease, stroke, or high blood pressure should be encouraged to attend a high cholesterol screening.

* High good cholesterol trumps low bad cholesterol for heart protection

Having a high level of HDL cholesterol – the good cholesterol – is more important than having a low level of LDL – the bad cholesterol – in protecting individuals from heart attack, according to a study published in the March issue of American Heart Journal by researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, Inc.

The researchers looked at the history of heart disease, age, sex, race, weight and other heart disease risk factors in almost 7,000 patients. The patients were predominately inner city residents and included a large number of African Americans, women, smokers and overweight people. The researchers found the strongest predictor of future heart attack was previous heart disease; age was the second strongest predictor and the third strongest predictor was HDL level.

"Most of the drugs that lower LDL also tend to raise HDL so until our study, when a person's health improved, you couldn't tell if that was due to lowering of the LDL or raising the HDL level," says study senior author Dr. William Tierney, IU Chancellor's Professor of Medicine and a Regenstrief Institute Inc. research scientist. "We now know that more good cholesterol is more important than less bad cholesterol.

"Having a high total cholesterol reading may not be bad, in fact it may be good if it's the HDL component which is high. Conversely, a low total cholesterol reading, is not necessarily good because it can hide a low HDL level," said Tierney.

This study was repeated with stroke as the outcome rather than heart disease, and the same results were the same: HDL cholesterol was a strong predictor of stroke, and the LDL cholesterol was not.

Current guidelines for treating cholesterol focus only on LDL cholesterol. That's not enough: they should focus on both HDL and LDL, according to Tierney. He calls for guidelines to be revised to encourage physicians and their patients to pay closer attention to HDL cholesterol.

Co-authors of the study are Timothy Stump of the Regenstrief Institute, Inc.; and Carol E. Koro, Steven Bowlin, and Dr. Dennis L. Sprecher of GlaxoSmithKline, Inc. The research was funded by GlaxoSmithKline, Inc.

Information on Cholesterol