Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance that comes from two sources: The body (specifically your liver) and the food you eat. The amount of cholesterol in your blood can make a big difference in your overall health and raise your risk for complications from serious conditions like heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.
Managing high cholesterol is easy for some people—they just change an unhealthy diet and see big results. But there’s another group of adults who have a bigger challenge—genetics. For these people, high cholesterol isn’t coming from their diet alone, but from their bodies and the family traits they inherited.
What’s special about inherited high cholesterol?
Inside the liver are special receptors that are made to detect LDL cholesterol in the blood. People with inherited high cholesterol have a mutation or change in this receptor that makes the liver fail to recognize there’s enough cholesterol already circulating and it produces more.
This makes it challenging to get cholesterol levels under control. Nonetheless, you have to try—and when you partner with a trusted healthcare provider there’s hope. Here are 5 ways you can fight back against inherited high cholesterol:
1) Don’t underestimate the diet
Just because your cholesterol levels aren’t up from diet alone, doesn’t mean you get to skip healthy eating.
Your doctor will likely refer you to a nutritionist or dietician to help you formulate a plan to help reduce the amount of cholesterol you eat—which will help the bigger picture.
Reducing the amount of body fat on board and building muscle helps lower cholesterol levels overall and causes bad cholesterol to drop while raising the good. 4
0 minutes of vigorous to moderate exercise also boosts the health of your heart, lungs and blood vessels, which could ward off other problems like heart disease in the future, too.
3) Keep your weight under control
If you’re watching what you eat and exercising you should begin to see the scale falling if you’re overweight. If you are of a normal weight or maintaining a loss, keep it up.
However, if you struggle with weight management, consider that in the same way genetics affects your cholesterol, it also affects your predisposition for weight gain and weight loss. Nutrigenomic testing can identify diet and exercise regimens that can be most effective for you.
4) Take your medication
FH patients may need different types of medications to help their body get rid of the extra cholesterol. If medication is prescribed, make sure to take it as ordered and talk to your doctor if you have questions or side effects.
5) Monitor as directed
To keep an eye on your levels, your doctor may want you to have blood work more often than some other patients. And even though it may seem like an inconvenience, don’t skip it.
Changes or spikes in your cholesterol levels will need to be managed in a timely way so keep your appointments.
Could you be living with FH? Often patients are unaware of their underlying condition until they fall ill—often at a very young age.
To help you learn more about what could be happening inside your body, ask family members about your familial medical history or consider genetic testing to identify your personal (and perhaps inherited) genetic risk for conditions like heart disease or high cholesterol and their side effects. Then together with your doctor, you can make a plan to fight back and win.