We've talked a lot about how high cholesterol puts you at a higher risk for heart disease down the road. New research is showing it's not just the "total amount" of cholesterol you have that's the only indicator. We talked with a Lipidologist at McGreevy Clinic Avera in Sioux Falls who says what matters is the number of particles carrying the LDL, the bad cholesterol.
Judy Arneson of Sioux Falls first met Internist Dr. Suneet Verma at the main McGreevy Clinic two years ago for a pre-operative physical before having cataract surgery. That exam likely saved her life. It put her eyes on hold to tend to her heart.
Judy says, "During that physical he found all kinds of things. I had a heart problem, diabetes, of course I knew I had diabetes but not at the degree I did. He also found I had high cholesterol, high lipids."
What played to Judy's advantage is that her internist, Dr. Verma, is also a Certified Lipidologist. It's a highly specialized and fairly new field where doctors are trained in the science of lipids (the fat molecules) like cholesterol in our blood stream that don't dissolve and eventually clog our arteries.
Dr. Verma says, "What I propagate is that people should know what their good and bad cholesterol is and how is it going to translate into heart attacks and brain attacks."
Dr. Verma did an extensive lipid panel test on Judy, took into account her family history and her own health history and came to the conclusion that she was at risk for heart attack or stroke. He sent her to the Avera Heart Hospital. Cardiologists did an angiogram and sure enough found she needed a stent to open one of her blocked coronary arteries.
Dr. Verma says, " We are picking patients before they have an event like heart attack. That's where the key is because if muscle is lost after the heart attack it's very hard to recover from there. Prevention is better than being killed."
It's something that's always on Judy's mind.
Judy says, "Yes it is. My mother had 2 heart attacks. My oldest son had a heart attack and I'm always thinking am I the next one? I worry about it even with the stent."
Both doctor and patient are doing everything they can to prevent that from happening. Since getting her stent, Dr. Verma has also helped Judy get her diabetes under control and bring her cholesterol levels way down through a combination of medications, diet and exercise.
Even though she did get her cataract surgery, Judy says, it was Dr. Verma who really opened her eyes to a healthier life.