We often hear about cholesterol and the risks associated with high cholesterol levels. We see ads for all kinds of products that combat high cholesterol and help lower it. In this article, we will learn about cholesterol, its symptoms when elevated, and the appropriate treatment to enjoy good health.
Cholesterol is an organic fatty compound produced by the liver and is present in all body cells. It plays a crucial role in various functions and can also be obtained through food.
Cholesterol is an essential component of cell membranes, contributing to their structure and function. It is also involved in producing hormones such as cortisol and sex hormones (Estrogen and testosterone). Additionally, cholesterol plays a role in digesting fats in the digestive system as part of compounds known as bile acids, aiding in fat digestion.
There are two main types of cholesterol in the body:
Often referred to as "bad cholesterol," when its levels in the blood exceed the recommended range, it can accumulate in the walls of arteries, leading to the formation of fatty deposits known as atherosclerosis. This increases the risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases.
Known as "good cholesterol" because it plays a vital role in removing excess cholesterol from the blood and transporting it to the liver for disposal. This helps maintain heart and vascular health.
Maintaining a balance between these two types of cholesterol is vital for heart and vascular health.
Cholesterol levels in the blood are considered high when they exceed the recommended normal limits by medical and health authorities. Here are general guidelines for cholesterol levels in the blood:
Total cholesterol is generally considered high if it exceeds 200 mg/dL or 5.2 mmol/L in the standard measurement.
LDL cholesterol levels are typically considered high if they exceed 130 mg/dL or 3.4 mmol/L. These values may vary slightly when risk factors such as heart disease and diabetes are present.
HDL cholesterol levels are considered low if they are less than 40 mg/dL or one mmol/L and higher if they are greater than 60 mg/dL or 1.6 mmol/L.
Elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood can result from various reasons. Some of these causes are linked to genetics and heredity, while others can be avoided through lifestyle and dietary changes. Here are some common reasons for high cholesterol.
If there is a family history of high cholesterol, you may have a genetic predisposition for high levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) or low levels of good cholesterol (HDL). Doctors often inquire about a family history of high cholesterol when evaluating a patient's need for tests.
Consuming excessive amounts of saturated fats, cholesterol, and added sugars in your diet can raise cholesterol levels in the blood.
Lack of exercise or irregular physical activity can increase cholesterol levels in the blood. Regular physical activity helps raise HDL (good cholesterol) levels and lower LDL (bad cholesterol).
There is a close association between excess weight, obesity, and elevated levels of harmful cholesterol while lowering good cholesterol levels. Weight loss has been shown to modify cholesterol levels in the body effectively.
Smoking leads to an increase in LDL levels and a decrease in HDL levels, increasing the risk of artery blockages.
Cholesterol levels typically rise as we get older.
Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and thyroid disorders can impact cholesterol levels in the body.
What makes high cholesterol a significant risk is that it often comes without apparent symptoms, which is why doctors refer to it as the "silent killer." It is essential to regularly check cholesterol levels, especially if there is a family history of high cholesterol or heart and artery diseases.
High cholesterol levels can lead to the accumulation of fatty deposits in artery walls, increasing the risk of narrowing and blocking arteries, such as angina and heart attacks.
Excess blood fats can contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart diseases and strokes.
Elevated cholesterol levels increase the risk of blood clots, which can lead to severe conditions like strokes.
Following a healthy diet rich in fiber, proteins, vegetables, and fruits while reducing sugary and high-fat foods.
Regular exercise and weight loss, with a focus on increasing muscle mass.
Sometimes, cholesterol-lowering medications may be necessary when lifestyle changes are insufficient. Common medications include statins and others.
Managing risk factors such as blood pressure and blood sugar levels can help control cholesterol levels.