A clogged artery

High LDL cholesterol can clog the arteries, raising the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Q&A with Lama Alsamara, MD, who specializes in internal medicine at Inova Medical Group – Falls Church

I closely watch cholesterol because it’s the No. 1 risk factor for heart disease and stroke. That said, monitoring cholesterol is tricky.

To begin with, your body needs some cholesterol. In addition, there are two main types of cholesterol that I need to watch. Each type is different — yet equally important — in determining your risk factor for heart disease or stroke.

LDL vs. HDL cholesterol

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): The “bad” cholesterol

First there’s low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol). High LDL can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries, which prevents healthy blood flow to the heart and increases risk for heart attack and stroke.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL): The “good” cholesterol

Then there’s high-density lipoprotein (HDL cholesterol), which I want to be higher. HDL is like a scavenger, moving bad LDL cholesterol out of the body and lowering risk for heart disease and stroke.

Read more about LDL and HDL cholesterol (Inova Staywell Health Library)

In the past, safe LDL and HDL and total cholesterol levels fell inside strict boundaries and physicians treated to target. Today, I follow the American Heart Association’s guidelines, which involve an integrated approach that looks at targets, lifestyle choices and genetics. Then I create an individualized plan that includes healthier lifestyle choices and, if called for, medication. Interestingly enough, my recommendations to lower LDL and raise HDL are often the same: eat healthily, exercise, and be cautious and conscious about what you put in your body.

Get Healthy

To make an appointment with Dr. Alsamara, call 703-531-2244.


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