You might know that high cholesterol is not a good thing, but you might not be aware of the impact in can have on your body. If cholesterol levels get out of control, your overall health and quality of life could be significantly affected. However, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of losing the battle against this health issue. Knowledge is key.
Here are a few things you should know about high cholesterol.
What happens when you have too much cholesterol?
Too much cholesterol, which is a type of fat in your blood, can be very dangerous. If you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it begins to build up in your arteries and can eventually lead to atherosclerosis, which is the hardening of the arteries. Over time, this buildup can cause your arteries to become narrow and make it harder for blood to flow through your arteries. You could also develop blood clots, according to WebMD.
What contributes to high cholesterol?
- Heredity. There are several causes of high cholesterol. Heredity is one way you could develop elevated cholesterol levels. A condition called familial hypercholesterolemia causes very high LDL cholesterol among family members. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says hypercholesterolemia usually begins from the time you are born, and it could lead to a heart attack early in life.
- Diet. A high-fat diet is a sure way to send your cholesterol levels soaring. Common sources of cholesterol are foods that come from animals, such as meat and cheese. It’s best to limit your intake of saturated fat, which the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says increases your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level more than anything else in your diet.
- Activity level. If you want to lower your chances of developing high cholesterol, stay active. A sedentary lifestyle is another possible cause. The Department of Health and Human Services suggests that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week. In addition, adults should engage in strength training at least twice a week.
High cholesterol (in addition to high blood pressure) is known as the “silent killer.” This is because you can have high cholesterol levels in your blood and not even know. High cholesterol tends to have no symptoms, which is why it’s important to go for your annual physical. As part of your examination, your doctor will order blood tests. One of the most important is a cholesterol test, which is also called a lipid panel. This test measures the fat levels in your blood. If your doctor doesn’t order this test, just ask.
There are several risk factors for high cholesterol. Risk factors include large waist circumference, smoking, diabetes, age, and gender.
- Waist circumference. Your risk increases if you are a man with a waist circumference of at least 40 inches or a woman with a waist circumference of at least 35 inches, according to Mayo Clinic.
- Smoking. Smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, which can make them more likely to store fatty deposits. In addition, smoking could lower your HDL, or “good,” cholesterol.
- Diabetes. High blood sugar can result in higher LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol. High blood sugar also damages the lining of your arteries.
- Age and gender. Men tend to have lower levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol than women. As women and men get older, their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels often increase. Women younger than 55 years old tend to have lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels than men. This changes after 55, when LDL levels for women are usually higher than men.
Unfortunately, high cholesterol can lead to many complications. Among them are heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, chronic kidney disease, and chest pain. Fortunately, high cholesterol and the complications can usually be treated with medications and lifestyle changes. Statins are the most commonly prescribed medications used to treat high cholesterol. Lipitor and Zocor are some examples.
There are some ways you can reduce your chances of getting high cholesterol or making your condition worse. You can be proactive and take charge of your health. A healthy diet is one of the best ways to do this. Experts suggest eating a plant-based diet, eating less bad fat and more good fat, and consuming plenty of whole grains. According to Harvard School of Public Health, “Eating whole instead of refined grains substantially lowers total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin levels. Any of these changes would be expected to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.”
Educate yourself as much as you can so you can enjoy a healthy life. Here are some helpful resources to help you learn more about high cholesterol and improve your overall health.
- American Heart Association Healthy Fats, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook
- Low-Cholesterol Cookbook for Dummies
- The Bible Cure for High Cholesterol
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