Understanding Cholesterol is Important for One’s Health

Understanding Cholesterol is Important for One’s Health

Thursday, September 29, 2022

By Johnna Richter, PharmD, RPh & Niki Salomon, PharmD

September is National Cholesterol Education Month. The goal is to raise awareness about cholesterol and its dangers and connection to heart disease.

Why does cholesterol matter?
Cholesterol is a substance that is found in all cells of the body. Your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, Vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods. There are two major types of cholesterol, HDL or high-density lipoprotein and LDL or low-density lipoprotein. These types are typically measured on a standard blood test by your provider. Providers often focus on these two types of cholesterol when assessing heart and overall health. HDL is known as “HELPful” or “Good Cholesterol” because it helps remove extra cholesterol the body does not need.  LDL is the opposite or “Bad” cholesterol.  This type of cholesterol builds up your body and can increase risk of heart attack and stroke for example.


What are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are slightly different than cholesterol. They are fat that that give your body energy.  Your body makes some triglycerides; however, some triglycerides come from your diet.  Extra calories, alcohol, and sugar in the body turn into triglycerides and are stored in fat cells throughout the body.
Is Fish Oil for Everyone?
Not Necessarily. Fish Oil supplements became popular in the early 2000s for treatment of high cholesterol levels. When these supplements are purchased without a prescription (over the counter) the quality and strength can greatly vary. It is important to remember that vitamins, herbs, and other dietary supplements are not regulated in the same way that prescription drugs are. You could be purchasing a product that does not truly contain what is labeled.
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Healthcare is continuously changing and evolving based on new studies, and guidelines are continually revised, especially for cholesterol. Fish Oil supplements can cause side effects, possible interactions with other medications, and may need to be evaluated before procedures. If you have been taking fish oil supplements for a long time, talk to a pharmacist or your provider to ensure they are right for you.