Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the blood and produced naturally by the liver. Cholesterol is important for the formation of cell membranes, certain hormones, and vitamin D.
Cholesterol is carried in the blood by proteins. When cholesterol and proteins combine, they’re called lipoproteins. There are two main types of cholesterol as below:
- Low-density lipoproteins (LDL), often called “bad” cholesterol. It carries cholesterol to the arteries. If the level of LDL cholesterol is too high, it can build up on the walls of the arteries also known as cholesterol plaque. If the blood contains too much LDL cholesterol, it is known as high cholesterol.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL), often called “good” cholesterol. It helps return LDL cholesterol to the liver to be removed from the body and prevents cholesterol plaque from building up in the arteries.
Let us go over High Cholesterol Causes, Complications, Risk Factors and Preventions tips in an easy to understand graphical format:
What are the causes of High Cholesterol?
The following factors may be responsible for developing high cholesterol:
- Excess weight or obesity
- Consuming too much saturated fats or trans fats
- Lifestyle factors such as lack of physical activity, smoking
- Genetic factors
- People with the inherited condition familial hypercholesterolemia
Other conditions that can lead to high cholesterol levels, include:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Underactive thyroid gland
- Inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis.
- Some Medications can increase cholesterol such as Diuretics, Steroids, Antiretroviral medicines, Immunosuppressive drugs, etc.
What are the symptoms of High Cholesterol?
Unfortunately, there are no symptoms of high cholesterol in most cases. Many people don’t discover high cholesterol in their bodies until they suffer through a life-threatening event. Hence routine screening and regular blood tests are required to help detect high levels.
Blood cholesterol levels are measured using a simple blood test called lipid panel. It assesses the levels of:
- Total cholesterol: The total amount of cholesterol present in the bloodstream.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: LDL cholesterol level in the blood
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: HDL cholesterol level in the blood
- Triglycerides: Triglycerides is a type of fat and is stored in the body’s fat cells. Triglycerides can also contribute to the narrowing of the artery walls.
What are the side effects of High Cholesterol?
High cholesterol is one of the main risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease. It can cause a dangerous accumulation of cholesterol and other deposits on the walls of the arteries. These deposits can reduce blood flow through the arteries, causing a condition known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can result in many complications, such as:
- Chest pain
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Chronic kidney disease
What are the risk factors for High Cholesterol?
The following factors may increase the risk of developing high cholesterol:
- Unhealthy diet: Intake of saturated fat, red meat, full-fat dairy products will increase cholesterol.
- Obesity: Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater puts a person at risk of high cholesterol.
- Lack of exercise: Exercise helps boost the body’s HDL or “good,” cholesterol.
- Smoking: Cigarette smoking damages the walls of the blood vessels, making them more prone to accumulate fatty deposits. Smoking might also lower the level of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol.
- Age: The body’s metabolism and chemistry change as a person ages. For example, the liver does not remove low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol efficiently with age. These normal age-related changes may increase the risk of developing high blood cholesterol.
- Diabetes: High blood sugar contributes to higher levels of dangerous cholesterol called very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and lower HDL cholesterol.
- Family History of high cholesterol: Depending on the genes in the family, a person may have an increased risk for high blood cholesterol.
What are the tips to prevent High Cholesterol?
Lifestyle changes can help prevent high cholesterol. The following tips may help:
- Limit intake of saturated fats, and trans fats such as red meat, organ meats, egg yolks, and high-fat dairy products
- Eat high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Avoid fast food and junk food such as deep-fried foods
- Eat foods containing omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, walnuts, almonds, ground flax seeds, and avocados.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Quit smoking
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity can lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and increase good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
- Manage stress. Chronic stress can sometimes increase LDL cholesterol levels and decrease HDL cholesterol levels.
ERemedium blogs are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as advice or as a substitute for consulting a physician. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment from a healthcare professional.