Because high cholesterol has no symptoms, it’s important to be regularly screened for high cholesterol. Your primary care physician will run or order a blood test to measure your cholesterol levels. If your doctor diagnoses you with high cholesterol, he or she may refer you to a treatment specialist.
Primary Care Physician
Primary care physicians (PCP), such as family doctors, are usually the main contacts for people with high cholesterol. Cholesterol tests are scheduled during routine physical exams, and your PCP—or a nearby lab—administers the test. Your doctor will also be the one to go over the results with you and give you your high cholesterol diagnosis. If diagnosed with high cholesterol, you will likely receive your treatment plan, which may include drugs or lifestyle changes, from your primary care doctor. Patients with an increased risk of heart disease might be referred to a specialist, such as a cardiologist.
A cardiologist is a medical doctor (MD) who specializes in disorders of the heart. A high cholesterol diagnosis in and of itself does not usually warrant a trip to the cardiologist unless there are complications, your condition is life-threatening, or you have several risk factors for heart disease. These risk factors may include obesity, other conditions like diabetes, or a strong family history of heart disease or stroke.
A lipidologist is a medical doctor who specializes in lipidology, the study of fats in the blood, and the roles they play in the body. It is a subspecialty of metabolic medicine. These physicians have special training in cholesterol management and work with patients to help get their cholesterol under control. They can help determine the causes behind an individual’s high cholesterol and whether it’s due to a genetic disorder or lifestyle habits. You may be referred to a lipidologist if lifestyle and drug-therapy regimens fail to lower your cholesterol.
If you’re having a difficult time adopting a cholesterol-lowering diet, working with a registered dietician or nutritionist who specializes in cardiac-risk reduction can help. Dieticians can make personalized diet recommendations based on what foods you like and dislike and on how much time you have to cook. Cardiovascular nutritionists can also analyze your current diet and help you figure out the best ways to tweak it for maximum benefits.
In the same way a dietician or nutritionist help patients maintain a healthy diet, an exercise physiologist can help them work regular physical activity into their lifestyle. These specialists have a degree in exercise physiology and/or are certified by the American Society of Exercise Physiologists. They are trained to help people improve their fitness and to deliver treatment services specific to certain diseases.