Do you know your cholesterol number? Cholesterol is something everybody needs, but like many things, if your body has too much of the bad cholesterol, it can be unhealthy.

Isabelle Zlatnik, a nurse practitioner at Lawton Community Health Center, said when we have too much LDL, the bad cholesterol starts binding with other substances in the body and causes build up on the walls of arteries.

“If we have cholesterol that accumulates on the artery walls,” she said. “The diameter of the artery changes, and it becomes smaller. So, the blood flow to the heart flow to the heart muscle is diminished.”

She said the narrowing of the blood vessels limits the amount of oxygen to the heart muscle.

“We develop symptoms such as shortness of breath,” Zlatnik said. “We can have chest pains. We go to the emergency room and are diagnosed with a heart attack, and then we have to be rushed into the cath lab, get a stent placed, or have open-heart surgery.”

There are two reasons why somebody’s cholesterol levels are too high.

“We have something called familial hypercholesterolemia, which is a genetic disorder that will expose us to high cholesterol levels,” she said.

Zlatnik said people can eat healthily and exercise and still have high levels. The other cause of high cholesterol is due to lifestyle.

“Like a sedentary lifestyle. People who don’t exercise are sedentary or people that have a diet that consists of a lot of food sources from animals,” she said. “Like egg yolks, a lot of meat, or saturated fat from fast foods.”

High cholesterol can be lowered in two ways depending on the patient’s health and numbers. Lifestyle changes and medication for certain patients, but you have to know if your number is too high with a simple blood test for it to be treated.

“We don’t really have any symptoms for the most part. Initially, when we have high cholesterol, we may not have any symptoms.

Zlatnik said it’s important to see your doctor regularly so they can monitor your cholesterol levels.