Table of Contents
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a lipid that is secreted by the liver to protect the nerves and repair tissue and cells. Your body also gets cholesterol from the food you eat. This includes eggs, meat, and milk. There are “good” (HDL) and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. Extreme cholesterol (LDL) can be bad for your health.
What is the difference between “good” and “bad” cholesterol?
Good cholesterol is known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Removes cholesterol from the blood. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is “bad” cholesterol.
If your total cholesterol level is high due to high LDL levels, you may be at greater risk for heart disease or stroke. But, if your total cholesterol level is only high because of high HDL levels, you are probably not at high risk.
Triglycerides are another type of fat in your blood. When you eat more calories than your body can use, they convert extra calories into triglycerides.
Changing your lifestyle (diet and exercise) can improve your cholesterol levels, lower LDL and triglycerides, and raise HDL.
Your good cholesterol level will depend on your risk of heart disease.
Total cholesterol level – less than 200 is much better, but it depends on your HDL and LDL levels.
LDL cholesterol levels – below 130 are best, but this depends on your risk of heart disease.
HDL cholesterol level – of 60 or higher reduces the risk of heart disease.
Triglycerides – less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) are the best.
Cholesterol | Sterols plants and Stanols
Symptoms of high cholesterol
Generally, there are no specific symptoms of high cholesterol. You can have high cholesterol and not know it.
If you have high cholesterol, your body may store more cholesterol in your arteries. These are the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to your entire body. The accumulation of cholesterol in your arteries is known as plaque. Over time, plaque can harden and thin your arteries. Large deposits of plaque can completely block the artery. Cholesterol triglycerides can also be broken down, leading to the formation of blood clots that block blood flow.
Clogged arteries leading to the heart can cause heart disease. Clogged arteries leading to your brain can cause a stroke.
Most people do not find that they have high cholesterol until they experience one of these life-threatening events. Some people find out through routine tests that include blood tests.
What causes high cholesterol?
Your liver produces cholesterol, but you also get cholesterol from food. Eating too many fatty foods can raise your cholesterol level.
Obesity and inactivity cause high cholesterol. If you are overweight, you probably have high levels of triglycerides. If you never exercise and don’t work out regularly, it can lower your HDL (good cholesterol).
Your family history also affects your cholesterol level. Studies have shown that high cholesterol tends to work in families. If you have a close family member who has it, you can have it, too.
Smoking also causes high cholesterol. Lower your HDL (good cholesterol).
How is high cholesterol obtained?
You cannot tell if you have high cholesterol without checking it. A simple blood test will reveal your cholesterol level.
Men 35 years and older and women 45 and older should have their cholesterol checked. Men and women 20 years of age and older who are at risk for heart disease should have their cholesterol checked. Adolescents may need to be tested if they are taking certain medications or have a strong family history of high cholesterol. Ask your doctor how often you should check your cholesterol.
Risk factors for heart disease include:
- Smoking cigarettes
- High blood pressure
- Having a close family member (parent or sibling) who has had a heart attack
- Obesity or overweight
Can high cholesterol be prevented or avoided?
Choosing a healthy diet and exercising are two ways to reduce the risk of developing high cholesterol.
Eat a few fatty foods (such as red meat and many dairy products). Choose healthy fats. These include lean meats, avocados, nuts, and low-fat dairy products. Avoid fatty foods (such as fried and packaged foods). Look for foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These foods include salmon, herring, walnuts, and almonds. Some types of eggs contain omega-3.
Exercising can be easy. Go for a walk. Take a yoga class. Ride your bike to work. You can also take part in a team game. Indicate getting 30 minutes of activity daily.
High cholesterol treatment
If you have high cholesterol, you may need to make some changes in your lifestyle. If you smoke, stop. Exercise regularly. If you are overweight, losing just 5 to 10 pounds [5 to 10 kg] can improve your cholesterol levels and your risk of heart disease. Make sure you eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, grains, and fish.
Depending on your risk factors, your doctor may prescribe medication and lifestyle changes.
Living with high cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol, you are twice as likely to have heart disease. This is why it is important to check your cholesterol levels, especially if you have a family history of heart disease. Lowering LDL “bad cholesterol” through good diet, exercise, and medication can have a positive effect on your overall health.
Diagnosis of high cholesterol
High cholesterol is very easy to diagnose with a blood test called a lipid panel. The doctor will take a blood sample and send it to the laboratory for analysis. The doctor will ask you not to eat or drink anything for at least 12 hours before the test.
The lipid panel measures your total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the following levels are desirable:
LDL cholesterol: less than 100 mg / dL
HDL cholesterol: 40 mg / dL or more
triglycerides: less than 150 mg / dL
Your total cholesterol is generally considered to be “above the limit” when it is between 200 and 239 mg / dL. It is considered “high” if it is above 240 mg / dL.
Your LDL cholesterol is generally considered to be “above the limit” when it is between 130 and 159 mg / dL. It is considered “high” if it is above 160 mg / dL.
Your HDL cholesterol is usually considered “bad” if it is below 40 mg / dL.