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Everything You Need to Know About High Cholesterol

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance that resembles fat and is present in all your body's cells and circulation. The presence of cholesterol is typical. A healthy body needs cholesterol because it helps make cell membranes and certain hormones and is necessary for other biological processes. However, having high cholesterol in the blood increases the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease, which may result in a heart attack.

What are the symptoms of high cholesterol?

Typically, high cholesterol symptoms are not prominent. This unawareness results in emergencies. For instance, the harm brought on by excessive cholesterol might result in a heart attack or stroke. A blood test is the only method to determine whether your cholesterol is too high. This denotes a total blood cholesterol level of more than 200 mg/dL.

What are the causes of high cholesterol?

High blood cholesterol levels may be caused by various causes, including lifestyle choices and underlying medical issues.

  • Poor, unhealthy eating
  • Having obesity
  • Alcohol and smoking
  • Inadequate exercise
  • Family history of high cholesterol
  • Elevated blood pressure

 

What is LDL cholesterol?

The inner walls of the arteries supplying blood to the heart and brain might gradually thicken when the amount of LDL (low density-lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol in the blood is excessive. It may combine with other chemicals to produce plaque, a dense, hard deposit that can constrict and weaken the arteries. The term "atherosclerosis" refers to this disorder. A heart attack or stroke may occur if a clot develops and obstructs a constricted artery.

What is HDL cholesterol?

High-density lipoprotein transports between one-fourth and one-third of blood cholesterol (HDL). High HDL levels are regarded as "good" cholesterol since they seem to protect against heart attacks. The risk of cardiac illness is also higher in people with low HDL levels (less than 40 mg/dL). According to medical professionals, HDL tends to transport cholesterol back to the liver, excreted from the body and away from the arteries. Some researchers think HDL eliminates extra cholesterol from arterial plaque, reducing plaque development.

What are triglycerides?

The body produces a kind of fat called triglyceride. High LDL (bad) and low HDL (good) cholesterol levels are common in individuals with high triglyceride levels. High triglyceride levels are common among those who have diabetes, heart disease, or both. Increased triglycerides may result from being overweight or obese, physically inactive, smoking cigarettes, drinking too much alcohol, and eating a diet that is heavy in carbs (60 per cent of total calories or more).

Medical conditions that can cause unhealthy cholesterol levels include:

  • Long-term kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Hypothyroidism 
  • Lupus

Some sorts of drugs you could be taking for various health issues, such as:

  • Acne
  • Cancer
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Abnormal heartbeats
  • Organ transplants

 

Checking cholesterol levels

Milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is the unit used to test cholesterol.

Ideal cholesterol levels are:

  • Total choeslterol: 150 mg/dL or less total cholesterol
  • LDL level: About 100 mg/dL of LDL ("bad") cholesterol
  • HDL level: HDL or good cholesterol level should be more than or equal to 40 mg/dL in males and 50 mg/dL in women 
  • Triglycerides level should be 150 mg/dL or less

 

What are the risk factors associated with high cholesterol?

  • Diet: Consuming foods high in sugar, trans fats, saturated fat, sugar, and (to a lesser degree) cholesterol can increase your total and LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Weight: Being overweight might increase your LDL cholesterol while lowering your HDL cholesterol. High blood pressure may indicate that your weight is increasing.
  • Exercise and physical activity: Raising HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol) levels and reducing LDL cholesterol are aided by increased physical activity. You may slim down as a result of it.
  • Smoking: Smoking affects your blood vessels, making it more likely that fatty deposits will accumulate there. HDL, or "good" cholesterol, levels are also decreased.
  • Diabetes type 2: Research indicates that triglycerides, different cholesterol, might increase, and type 2 diabetes can reduce "good" cholesterol (HDL) levels. One of the leading causes of the condition is an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure does not always result in high cholesterol. It often does in those who do. That's because they might have many risk factors, such as obesity, age, poor nutrition, and lack of activity. Additionally, these disorders put a person at risk for heart disease, which accounts for the majority of fatalities from high cholesterol.

 

What complications can occur due to high cholesterol?

  • Chest discomfort: If the coronary arteries, which carry blood to your heart, are damaged, you may have angina (chest pain) and other signs of coronary artery disease.
  • Heart attack: If plaques rip or rupture, a blood clot may develop at the site of the rupture, obstructing blood flow or escaping and obstructing an artery downstream. You will have a heart attack if the blood supply to a portion of your heart is cut off.
  • Stroke: Much like a heart attack, a stroke happens when a blood clot prevents blood from reaching a particular area of your brain.

 

What are the ways to reduce cholesterol levels?

  • Eat healthy food: Eat fibre-rich foods, including fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Also, include antioxidant-rich foods in your diet, including seeds, nuts, and oily fish. Apart from this, reduce sugar and sodium intake in your diet.
  • Take cholesterol medications: Several prescription statins are available that decrease cholesterol and come in various brand names. Your doctor may also advise you to take vitamins and drugs that are more natural, such as fish oils (omega-3 fatty acids), niacin, and fibric acids.
  • Natural remedies for lowering cholesterol levels: Vitamin supplements and complementary therapies are two natural ways to lower cholesterol. However, they could interfere adversely with any medications you're taking. Additionally, they may reduce the efficacy of your prescription. For the combination to be safe, your doctor has to be aware of everything you are taking.

Make sure you adhere to your physician's instructions while taking any cholesterol-lowering medicine recommended.

Prevention of high cholesterol

Here are some ways to lower cholesterol levels:

  • Eat a diet low in salt and consume more fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains.
  • Use healthy fats sparingly and limit your intake of animal fats.
  • Maintain a healthy weight while shedding excess pounds.
  • Give up smoking.
  • Try to work out at least 30 minutes daily, most days of the week.
  • If you must drink, do it sparingly and only sometimes.

 

Takeaway

Young people should monitor their cholesterol levels since atherosclerosis, the slow occlusion of arteries, takes many years to develop. Starting at age 20, total cholesterol levels should be checked at least once every five years.