What is High Cholesterol?

Following your bariatric surgery, a great deal of importance is given to making appropriate food choices that will help you lose weight. Even though you are now eating less food, the types of food you eat can affect your health in other ways. Learning about nutrition is an essential first step in choosing food wisely and reducing your risk for nutrition related problems.

You may have heard that you need to avoid high cholesterol in order to prevent having a heart attack or stroke. But what, exactly, is cholesterol, and how does it affect your health? And is all cholesterol bad?

What is cholesterol?
The word cholesterol describes a type of fat called a lipid. It occurs naturally in your body and is used to do things like build new blood cells. In addition to being made by your body, you can also get cholesterol from your diet.

Different types of cholesterol.
Cholesterol travels through the blood attached to a protein. This combination of a lipid and protein is called a lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are either high-density or low-density, based on how much protein and fat they have. If a lipoprotein is made up of mostly fat, it is called a low-density lipoprotein, or LDL. LDL is often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol that many people need to lower.

If a lipoprotein is made up of more protein than fat, it is called a high-density lipoprotein, or HDL. HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol that doctors recommend you try to increase, because it helps clear the LDL out of your blood.

What is high cholesterol?
High cholesterol refers to an excess of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, in the blood. These lipoproteins can actually build up in your arteries, the vessels that carry blood away from the heart, and create a clog. If your arteries are clogged or blocked, than your body’s tissues and muscles aren’t receiving enough oxygenated blood. If your brain and heart aren’t getting enough oxygenated blood, it can lead to a stroke or heart attack.

Do you have high cholesterol?
There are no physical symptoms of high cholesterol for you to feel. Instead, a blood test is used to determine if you have too much LDL in your blood, or not enough HDL. How much cholesterol is too much?

  • Less than 200 is ideal
  • 200 to 239 is considered border-line
  • 240 or above is considered high cholesterol

If it’s determined that you have high cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe medication to help lower your “bad” cholesterol levels and recommend dietary changes to reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke.