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Is There a VA Rating for High Cholesterol? A Detailed Look

Last updated: November 24, 2023

High cholesterol, a common health concern among Americans, including veterans, can lead to serious cardiovascular diseases if left unchecked. Veterans often inquire about the VA rating for high cholesterol, seeking to understand how this condition affects their benefits and compensation

This comprehensive guide delves into the VA's approach to high cholesterol, exploring its causes, symptoms, and impact on VA ratings. With about 28 million Americans over the age of 20 suffering from high cholesterol, it's crucial for veterans to know where they stand in terms of VA ratings and what benefits they are entitled to receive.1

VA Rating for High Cholesterol

While the VA does not have a specific rating for high cholesterol alone, veterans need to understand how this condition intersects with other service-connected disabilities. High cholesterol often acts as a secondary condition to other primary service-connected disabilities like heart disease, stroke, or diabetes. This relationship between high cholesterol and primary service-connected conditions plays a crucial role in determining a veteran's eligibility for VA benefits.

To be considered for a VA rating for a secondary condition linked to high cholesterol, several factors are evaluated:

  • Causation or Aggravation: The VA assesses whether the high cholesterol is caused by or aggravated by the primary service-connected disability. This causal link is vital for the condition to be considered in the VA rating system.

  • Severity of the Condition: The VA also looks into how severe the secondary condition is. The degree to which high cholesterol has advanced and its impact on the veteran's health is crucial in this assessment.

  • Impact on Daily Functioning: Another key factor is the extent to which high cholesterol, in conjunction with the primary disability, affects the veteran’s daily life. This includes an evaluation of how the condition limits or hinders the veteran's ability to perform everyday activities and tasks.

For veterans with high cholesterol, it's essential to document and demonstrate this connection between their high cholesterol and primary service-connected disabilities. Proper medical evidence and documentation can significantly aid in establishing this link, thereby potentially qualifying them for a higher VA rating based on the severity and impact of their overall health condition.

Causes of High Cholesterol

"High cholesterol is mainly caused by poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, excessive alcohol, and genetic factors."

Diet and Nutrition

Diet plays a crucial role in managing cholesterol levels. Foods high in saturated fats, found in red meat and full-fat dairy products, and trans fats, often in processed foods, can raise cholesterol levels.2 Conversely, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats can help keep cholesterol in check. Understanding the relationship between diet and cholesterol is essential for veterans, as dietary changes can be a key component of managing their overall health and influencing their VA ratings.

Exercise and Physical Activity

Regular exercise is vital in controlling cholesterol levels. Physical activities, particularly aerobic exercises like walking, running, and cycling, help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, known as the "good" cholesterol, while lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol. Lack of exercise can lead to weight gain, which is a risk factor for high cholesterol. For veterans, incorporating regular physical activity can be a significant step in managing cholesterol levels and improving overall health.

Genetics and Family History

Cholesterol levels can be significantly influenced by genetics. If high cholesterol runs in the family, there's a greater chance of inheriting the same issues. This genetic predisposition makes it important for veterans to be aware of their family health history and discuss it with healthcare providers, as it can impact their VA ratings and health management strategies.

Medications and Supplements

Certain medications, including some types of steroids, beta-blockers, and diuretics, can affect cholesterol levels. Additionally, some supplements might interact with cholesterol-lowering medications. Veterans should regularly review their medications and supplements with healthcare providers to understand their impact on cholesterol levels and overall health.

Other Health Conditions

Various health conditions can influence cholesterol levels. For example, diabetes can lower HDL cholesterol and raise LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Thyroid disorders, kidney diseases, and liver problems also affect cholesterol levels. It's crucial for veterans with these conditions to manage them effectively, as they can have a direct impact on cholesterol levels and overall health profiles, which are considered in VA ratings.

Age, Gender, and Ethnicity

As individuals age, cholesterol levels naturally tend to rise. Before menopause, women generally have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age, but after menopause, women's LDL levels often rise. Additionally, certain ethnic groups may have a higher risk of developing high cholesterol. Understanding these factors is important for veterans as they work with healthcare providers to monitor and manage cholesterol levels effectively.

Symptoms of High Cholesterol

“High cholesterol doesn’t exhibit any noticeable symptoms”

High cholesterol is often referred to as a "silent" health issue, primarily because it typically doesn't manifest any overt symptoms.3 This characteristic makes it a particularly insidious threat, as many individuals, including veterans, may not realize they have high cholesterol until it has already begun to adversely affect their health. The condition, when undetected and untreated, significantly increases the risk of serious cardiovascular diseases - a major concern for the overall well-being of veterans.

The most significant risk posed by high cholesterol is the development of atherosclerosis, a condition where plaques build up in the arteries. This plaque buildup narrows and hardens the arteries, impeding blood flow and increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. While high cholesterol itself is symptomless, the conditions it leads to often have distinct symptoms.

Key Symptoms of Conditions Caused by High Cholesterol

  • Chest Pain (Angina): One of the first signs of heart disease from atherosclerosis may be chest pain or discomfort, especially during physical activity or stress.

  • Shortness of Breath: This symptom can occur when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body's needs, often a result of clogged arteries.

  • Numbness or Weakness in Limbs: Reduced blood flow due to clogged arteries can cause these symptoms, particularly if an artery supplying blood to the limbs is affected.

  • Difficulty Speaking or Understanding Speech: This could indicate a stroke, which occurs when a part of the brain is deprived of blood and oxygen due to clogged arteries.

  • Palpitations and Dizziness: Irregular heart rhythms and lightheadedness can also be signs of heart disease.

Given these potential risks, regular cholesterol screenings are vital. These screenings are especially important for veterans who may have additional risk factors for cardiovascular diseases due to their service history. Early detection through such screenings can lead to timely management of high cholesterol, thus preventing its progression into more severe and potentially life-threatening conditions.

How Much Can You Get For Having High Cholesterol?

When it comes to VA benefits, there is no direct compensation for high cholesterol alone. However, the VA does consider the impact of high cholesterol when it contributes to or aggravates a service-connected disability. For example, if high cholesterol leads to heart disease or stroke, and these conditions are linked to a veteran's military service, the veteran may be eligible for compensation.

FAQs About High Cholesterol and VA Benefits

Can high cholesterol affect my eligibility for other VA health services?

Yes, high cholesterol can influence your eligibility for certain VA health services, especially those aimed at cardiovascular health and preventive care.

Are there specific VA programs for veterans to manage high cholesterol?

The VA offers various health programs and resources, including nutrition counseling and fitness programs, to help veterans manage high cholesterol effectively.

How often should I get my cholesterol levels checked for VA health monitoring?

It is recommended that veterans get their cholesterol levels checked at least once every 5 years, or more frequently as advised by their VA healthcare provider.

Does the VA provide medication for cholesterol management?

Yes, the VA provides medication for cholesterol management as part of its pharmacy benefits, based on the veteran's health needs and doctor's prescription.

Will lifestyle changes recommended by the VA for high cholesterol impact my disability rating?

Lifestyle changes can improve your overall health but generally do not directly impact your disability rating unless they lead to significant improvements in a service-connected condition.

Navigating VA Benefits for High Cholesterol

In summary, while there is no direct VA rating for high cholesterol alone, its impact on overall health and related conditions is considered in determining veterans' benefits. Understanding this relationship is key for veterans seeking to navigate the VA system and secure the support they need for their health concerns. With a significant portion of the American population dealing with high cholesterol, awareness, and proper management are essential for veterans' health and well-being.

Stay informed and empowered with Disability Help: Explore our guide on SSDI and VA disability benefits to learn more about your eligibility, application process, and the latest updates for veterans and individuals.

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Chloe Powers
Chloe works with policymakers on behalf of Disability Help to support their work at a strategic level, ensuring the conditions are in place for creative individuals and organizations to grow, reach their potential and effect relevant, sustainable change.
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