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Cholesterol and triglycerides: the basics
Cholesterol and triglycerides are types of lipids. Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced by the liver and absorbed from your diet. Triglycerides are a fatty substance made in the body and absorbed from your diet. You need a certain level of lipids for proper health, but your risk for heart attack, stroke and many other problems increases when your lipid levels get too high. Because lipids are thick and waxy, they can build up and eventually clog your arteries, preventing normal blood flow to your heart, brain and other organs.
“Dyslipidemia” is the medical term for high cholesterol or triglycerides. People can have dyslipidemia for any or all of these reasons:
It can be genetic (inherited from your parents)
It can be due to your lifestyle, such as your nutrition and diet, or not exercising
It can be caused by smoking or excessive alcohol consumption
Regardless of the cause, we encourage you to seek treatment if your lipid levels are high so you can lower your risk for major health problems. Although we tend to think of high lipids as an adult condition, children can also have high cholesterol or triglycerides. For kids, we offer a Pediatric Preventive Cardiology Clinic based at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, with additional clinic locations in Green Bay, Oshkosh and Wausau.
Symptoms and diagnosis
Although there usually are no symptoms of dyslipidemia (high cholesterol), it can lead to heart attack, stroke or other serious problems if left untreated. High cholesterol often is a hidden risk factor, which means you may not even know you have it until it’s too late. That’s why it’s so important to see your primary care doctor and know your numbers, especially if other family members have heart disease.
Options to improve your health
At UW Health, we create a treatment plan designed to lower your cholesterol and triglycerides so they stay in a healthy range. We also talk with you and your family to make sure you fully know about high blood pressure, or hypertension.
Your treatment options and lifestyle changes may include:
Following a nutritionist-guided eating plan
Maintaining a healthy weight
Medication for lipids, diabetes mellitus and weight loss
Regular exercise and physical activity
We offer group classes to learn healthy cooking, proper exercise, rehabilitation from heart disease, and how to transition from pediatric to adult lipid care.
Why UW Health
With a legacy of four decades of cutting-edge preventive cardiology, the lipid experts at UW Health provide collaborative, comprehensive care. We help you manage your condition to prevent more serious cardiovascular conditions.
Your care team may include:
We also have access to state-of-the-art diagnostic testing, when needed, including:
Advanced lipoprotein testing
Vascular health screening, which can include a specialized carotid artery ultrasound study or measurement of coronary artery calcium using a CT scan
Meet the team