Recently diagnosed with high cholesterol? If yes, you are at risk of heart disease and other medical complications, such as diabetes. Many people think diabetes is caused by insufficient secretion of insulin in the body. But the fact is, the secreted insulin does not get dissolved by the blood cells because of an unwanted layer of cholesterol on the blood cells.
This layer of cholesterol prevents the blood cells from interacting with insulin causing diabetes. There are more facts regarding the side effects of high cholesterol. You will get to know about it in this article.
Almost 93 million U.S. adults of age 20 and above have high cholesterol levels (200 mg/dL). Approximately 29 million adult Americans have severely high levels of cholesterol (240 mg/dL). In fact, 7% of children and adolescents aged 6-19 years have high total cholesterol.
What Does High Cholesterol Mean?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance present in the blood that helps in developing healthy cells. Excess of anything is bad, the same goes for cholesterol. The Effects of high cholesterol include severe health complications, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and many more. In some cases, the excess amount of cholesterol deposits in the form of a clot can lead to heart stroke or attack.
High cholesterol can be inherited, but unhealthy lifestyle habits often cause it in most cases. A healthy diet, regular physical activity from the start will always keep you out from the effects of high cholesterol.
What Are The Different Types Of Cholesterol And Their Roles?
Cholesterol is of different types, based on the combination of protein and with it(lipoprotein), cholesterol is of two types, such as:-
When thinking about cholesterol, you probably think of ‘bad’ or high cholesterol. But your body also requires a healthy source of cholesterol. Total cholesterol levels are composed of HDL, LDL, and triglycerides, a form of fat carried in the blood.
The kind of cholesterol that makes you feel healthy is high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and the one harmful for you, which needs to be controlled is low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Low-density Lipoprotein transports cholesterol throughout the body, building up in the walls of the arteries. This makes the arteries hard and narrow, causing them difficult to absorb other ingredients.
LDL cholesterol is also referred to as the “poor” cholesterol because it gathers in your blood vessel walls, increasing the risk of health issues, including a heart attack or stroke.
But, not all cholesterol is dangerous. Your body needs it to protect its nerves and keep the hormones and cells stable.
Good cholesterol, another name of HDL picks up excess amounts of cholesterol and transfers it back to the liver for eliminating it from the body.
What Really Causes High Cholesterol?
Below are the things that contribute to the occurrence of high cholesterol level, such as:-
- Low diet: Consuming saturated fat present in animal products and trans fats, such as commercially baked cookies, crackers, and microwave popcorn, increases the cholesterol level. Foods rich in cholesterol, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, will also increase your cholesterol.
- Obesity: People with body mass index (BMI) 30 or greater are at risk of obesity and high cholesterol.
- Lack of exercise: Exercise helps to increase the body’s HDL(good cholesterol) by increasing the size of the particles that make LDL (bad cholesterol), which makes it less harmful.
- Smoking: Smoking cigarettes damages the blood vessels’ walls, making them more prone to accumulate fatty deposits. Smoking may also be responsible for lowering the HDL level (good cholesterol).
- Age: The chemistry of the human body changes with the growing age, which increases the risk of increasing the cholesterol level. For instance, with the growing age, the liver’s ability to remove LDL cholesterol decreases.
- Diabetes: High blood sugar causes an increase in bad cholesterol, also known as very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL). This consequently lowers the HDL cholesterol and damages the artery lining.
What Problems Does High Cholesterol Cause?
High cholesterol results in severe accumulation of cholesterol and other deposits on the walls of the arteries, this is known as atherosclerosis. The deposition of cholesterol reduces the blood flow rate through the arteries and leads to complications, such as:-
- Chest pain: The deposition of cholesterol occurs in the arteries that supply blood to the heart(coronary arteries). This deposition can lead to abnormal functioning of the blood cells resulting in improper absorption of oxygen. As a result, the person will experience chest pain.
- Heart attack: The deposited cholesterol on the blood cells is known as plaques. When it gets ruptured, a blood clot is formed within the artery, blocking blood flow. This blockage increases the risk of a heart attack.
- Stroke: It is similar to the heart attack that also occurs due to a blood clot that blocks flow of blood to certain parts of the body. The severity of the blockage of the blood is comparatively less than the heart attack.
How Is High Cholesterol Diagnosed?
As the high cholesterol level is directly related to blood cells, the best way to diagnose high cholesterol is to go for a blood test. Specified blood tests are performed to diagnose high cholesterol, such as:-
- Total cholesterol
- LDL cholesterol
- HDL cholesterol
- Triglycerides count
For more precise results, do not eat or drink anything 9-12 hours before submitting the blood sample.
Below is a standard range of parameters that are measured during the blood tests:-
- Below 200 mg/dL is desirable
- (200-239) mg/dL is borderline high
- 240 mg/dL and more is considered high
- Below 70 mg/dL is good for the heart and diabetic patient
- (70-100) mg/dL is optimum for heart patients
- (100-129) mg/dL Optimum for healthy people but high for heart patients
- (130-159) mg/dL Borderline for healthy people but high for heart patients
- (160-189) mg/dL High for healthy people but very high for heart patients
- 190 mg/dL and above is considered severe for everybody
- Below 40 mg/dL(men) and 50 mg/dL(women) is poor
- (40-59) mg/dL(men) and(50-59) mg/dL(women) is considerable
- 60 mg/dLand above is considerable best
- Below 150 mg/dL is desirable
- (150-199) mg/dL is borderline high
- (200-499) mg/dL is high
- 500 mg/dL is very high
How Do You Treat High Cholesterol?
Developing certain healthy habits, such as regular exercise and nutritional habits, is the first-line treatment for high cholesterol. Still, if the cholesterol level remains high, the doctor may recommend you some medications.
Doctors will prescribe your medications based on various factors, such as age, other health conditions, possible side effects of the drug. The medicines for treating high cholesterol are as follows:-
- Statins: It is a substance required in making cholesterol by the liver. It also helps the liver to remove cholesterol from the blood. Statins also help the body reabsorb cholesterol from the deposition in the form of plaques on the artery walls, potentially reversing coronary artery disease.
Medication that work in this pattern includes atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol XL), lovastatin (Altoprev), pitavastatin (Livalo), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor).
- Bile-acid-binding resins: Liver uses cholesterol to make bile acids that are necessary for digestion. Medicines, such as cholestyramine (Prevalite), colesevelam (Welchol), and colestipol (Colestid), helps in lowering the cholesterol indirectly by binding to bile acids.
As a result, the liver starts using extra cholesterol to make bile acids, which reduces cholesterol levels in the blood.
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitors: Some drugs limit dietary cholesterol absorption, such as ezetimibe (Zetia). In some cases, it is also used with statin drugs.
- Injection: A new class of drugs, PCSK9 inhibitors, helps the liver absorb more LDL cholesterol, consequently lowering cholesterol circulating in the blood. People with a genetic condition causing high cholesterol are usually prescribed with Alirocumab (Praluent) and evolocumab (Repatha).
What Lifestyle Changes Can Lower High Cholesterol?
Changing your daily habits are necessary to improve your cholesterol levels. Change in lifestyle includes the following things:-
Losing weight: Losing even 5-10 pounds can help you lower your high levels of cholesterol.
Eat a heart-healthy diet: Try including plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet. Limit saturated fats present in red meat and full-fat dairy products and trans fats, found in many processed foods.
Monounsaturated fat, found in olive and canola oils, is a healthier option. There are other source of healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, and oily fish.
Exercise regularly: Consult with your doctor and be regular with exercise for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times a week.
Quit smoke: If you smoke, find a way to quit. It is not good for your health in any condition, especially in high cholesterol.