Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in all cells of the blood. It is required by our body to build healthy cells. But everything is useful in certain limits. Higher levels of cholesterol pose greater the risk of developing heart disease.
Individuals with high cholesterol can develop fatty deposits in their blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits grow day by day, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through the arteries. Sometimes, those deposits can burst out suddenly and form a clot that may cause a heart attack or stroke.
High cholesterol can be inherited, but usually, it is the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices. It can be prevented and treatable. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and sometimes medications can help to balance high cholesterol.
What is the “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol?
HDL or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as good cholesterol. It removes cholesterol from the bloodstream.
LDL or Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the “bad” cholesterol.
If the total cholesterol level is high because of a high LDL or bad cholesterol, there may be a higher risk of heart disease or stroke. But, if the total cholesterol level is high because of a high HDL level, an individual is probably not at higher risk.
Triglycerides - These are the type of fat found in the bloodstream. When a person consumes more calories than the body can use, the body converts the extra calories into triglycerides.
Changing lifestyle patterns (diet and exercise) can maintain cholesterol levels, lower LDL and triglycerides, and raise HDL.
Symptoms of high cholesterol
Often, high cholesterol acquires no specific symptoms (asymptomatic). There is a possibility that a person might have high cholesterol and not know about it.
If someone has high cholesterol, their body may store the extra cholesterol in the arteries. A build-up of cholesterol in arteries is called plaque. Over time, plaque can become harder and make the arteries narrow. Massive accumulation of plaque can completely block an artery. Cholesterol plaques can also burst out apart, leading to the formation of a blood clot that blocks the blood flow. A blocked artery close to the heart may lead to an heart attack. A blocked artery close to the brain may cause a stroke.
Many people are not aware of having high cholesterol until they suffer one of these life-threatening events. However, with routine health check-ups one can check or detect their cholesterol levels.
What causes high cholesterol?
The only organ that produces cholesterol is the liver, but people also get cholesterol from external sources such as food items. Eating a variety of foods that are high in fat can increase the cholesterol level.
Being overweight also cause high cholesterol. If an individual is obese, they are most likely have a higher triglyceride level in their blood. Family history also affects cholesterol levels. Many shreds of evidence have shown that high cholesterol tends to run in families. Smoking is also a cause of high cholesterol. It lowers HDL (good cholesterol).
Factors that can increase the risk of high cholesterol in the body include:
1. Poor diet - Eating saturated fat, found in animal products, and trans fats, found in baked cookies and snacks, can raise the cholesterol level. Food items that are high in cholesterol, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, can also increase the level of cholesterol.
2. Obesity - Being overweight can put someone at risk of high cholesterol.
3. Lack of physical activity - Exercise helps boost the body's HDL, or "good," cholesterol, and reduce the LDL level.
4. Smoking - Cigarette and tobacco smoking damages the walls of the blood vessels, making them more vulnerable to fatty deposits. Smoking might also lower the level of HDL and raises LDL.
5. Age - Because the body's chemistry changes as people grow, the risk of high cholesterol scales up. For instance, as an individual ages, the liver becomes less functional to remove LDL cholesterol.
6. Diabetes - High blood sugar contributes to higher levels of cholesterol called very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and lower HDL cholesterol. A higher level of blood sugar also damages the arterial lining.
High cholesterol can cause a dangerous collection of cholesterol and other deposits on the walls of the arteries (atherosclerosis). These deposits known as plaques can reduce blood flow through arteries, which can cause complications, such as:
1. Chest pain - If the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart are affected, it may lead to chest pain or angina and other symptoms of coronary artery disease.
2. Heart attack - If plaques rupture or bursts, a blood clot can form at the rupture site, blocking the flow of blood. If blood flow to part of the heart stops, a heart attack may occur.
3. Stroke - It is similar to a heart attack, a stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to close to the brain.
To help prevent high cholesterol, people can:
Lifestyle and home remedies
Lifestyle changes are vital to improving cholesterol levels. To lower cholesterol levels, try the following: