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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Simple Guide to Understanding High Cholesterol

High cholesterol can happen because of what you eat, if you smoke, or if it runs in your family. Usually, it doesn’t make you feel sick. So, it’s a good idea to get your cholesterol checked regularly if you might have a problem with it.

“Many people in the United States have a problem called high cholesterol. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 94 million adults in the U.S. who are 20 years old or more might have cholesterol that is a bit too high.

But, sometimes, you might not even feel or notice anything wrong, so you won’t know you have it until you visit your doctor.

If you’re curious about why you get high cholesterol, what to do if the doctor says you have it, and how to make it better (hint: you can), just keep reading to find out everything.

Understanding Cholesterol: A Comprehensive Overview.

Cholesterol is a special kind of fat in your body. Your liver makes it naturally, and it looks a bit like wax. Cholesterol plays an important role in making cell walls, some hormones, and vitamin D.

Cholesterol can’t move around in your blood because it doesn’t mix with water. To solve this problem, your liver makes something called lipoproteins to carry the cholesterol.

LDL cholesterol, often called “bad cholesterol,” is cholesterol carried by a specific type of protein in your blood. When you have too much LDL cholesterol, it can lead to a condition known as high cholesterol. If high cholesterol isn’t managed properly, it can increase the risk of serious health problems like heart attacks and strokes.

LDL cholesterol, often known as “bad” cholesterol, is cholesterol transported by low-density lipoproteins in your bloodstream. When there’s an excess of LDL cholesterol in your blood, it can result in a diagnosis of high cholesterol. If left untreated, high cholesterol can pose serious health risks, such as heart attacks and strokes.

Having high cholesterol usually doesn’t make you feel bad at first. That’s why it’s a good idea to regularly check your cholesterol levels.

Signs of High Cholesterol

High cholesterol often doesn’t show any symptoms, so many people are unaware of it until they suffer from serious complications like heart attacks or strokes.

That’s why it’s important to regularly check your cholesterol levels. If you’re 20 or older, talk to your doctor about getting your cholesterol checked regularly. Understanding this test could help protect your life.

Understanding Factors Contributing to Elevated Cholesterol Levels

Eating lots of foods with too much cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats can make it more likely for you to have high cholesterol. Being overweight can also raise your chances of having high cholesterol. Not moving around much and smoking are other things that can add to the problem of high cholesterol.

Your family genes play a role in whether you might get high cholesterol. Genes are like instructions passed down from your parents to you. Some of these instructions tell your body how to handle cholesterol and fats. So, if your parents have high cholesterol, you might be more likely to have it too.

In some cases, high cholesterol is due to a genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia. This condition prevents your body from removing LDL cholesterol. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, most adults with this condition have total cholesterol levels above 300 milligrams per deciliter and LDL levels above 200 milligrams per deciliter.

Having other health problems like diabetes and hypothyroidism can also make it more likely for you to have high cholesterol and its related issues.

Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol: Understanding the Bad Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol, known as “bad cholesterol,” takes cholesterol to your arteries. When you have too much LDL cholesterol, it can stick to your artery walls.

This buildup is called cholesterol plaque. Plaque can make your arteries narrower, slow down blood flow, and make it more likely for blood clots to form. If a clot blocks an artery in your heart or brain, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Cholesterol: Unveiling the Good Cholesterol

HDL cholesterol, also known as “good cholesterol,” acts like a cleaning crew in your body. It picks up the bad LDL cholesterol and brings it to your liver, where it’s thrown out of your system. This keeps your arteries from getting clogged with cholesterol buildup.

When you have lots of good cholesterol called HDL, it can keep your blood flowing smoothly and reduce your chances of getting blood clots, heart problems, or a stroke.

Understanding Triglycerides: Exploring a Distinct Class of Lipids

Lipids encompass various types, with triglycerides setting themselves apart from cholesterol. While cholesterol plays a role in cell and hormone synthesis within the body, triglycerides serve primarily as an energy source.

When you eat too many calories that your body can’t immediately use, it turns these calories into something called triglycerides. These triglycerides are put away in your fat cells and are moved around in your blood using special helpers called lipoproteins.

If you often consume more calories than your body needs, your triglyceride levels might go up, and this can increase your chances of having health issues like heart disease and strokes.

Your physician can employ a basic blood examination to assess your triglyceride concentration, along with your cholesterol profiles.

Understanding and Managing Your Cholesterol Levels

If you’re 20 or older, the American Heart Association suggests checking your cholesterol every 4-6 years. If you have high cholesterol history or heart disease risks, your doctor may advise more frequent tests.

Your physician has the capability to utilize a lipid panel for assessing not only your total cholesterol level but also your LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. The total cholesterol level represents the cumulative cholesterol content in your bloodstream, encompassing both LDL and HDL cholesterol.

If your cholesterol numbers are too high, your doctor might say you have high cholesterol. This can be risky when your bad cholesterol (LDL) is too high and your good cholesterol (HDL) is too low.

Understanding Cholesterol Levels

Getting told you have high cholesterol doesn’t always mean you’ll get medicine. If your doctor gives you medicine, they’ll consider various things when deciding which one to give you.

Doctors usually use general numbers to figure out how to treat patients. They might call these numbers good, kind of high, or really shigh when talking about cholesterol.

According to the National Library of Medicine, the classification of total cholesterol levels in the majority of adults can be described as :

Total cholesterol Category
less than 200 mg/dL desirable
200-239 mg/dL borderline high
240 mg/dL and above high

 

The National Library of Medicine also offers guidance on achieving optimal to high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol:

LDL (bad) cholesterol levels Category
less than 100 mg/dL optimal
100-129 mg/dL near optimal
130-159 mg/dL borderline high
160-189 mg/dL high
190 mg/dL and above very high

Sure, here’s a simpler version: “These numbers are basic. You and your doctor will think about your individual situation before choosing a treatment.”

Latest Recommendations for Maintaining Optimal Cholesterol Levels

Your body uses a bit of cholesterol, including some LDL, to work well. However, when you have too much LDL in your body, it can increase your chances of getting really sick.

In 2018, the American College of Cardiologists and the American Heart Association revised their guidelines regarding the management of elevated cholesterol levels.

The updated guidelines not only take into account your cholesterol levels but also incorporate an assessment of other risk factors associated with heart disease, including familial history and underlying health conditions. These combined factors are utilized to evaluate an individual’s holistic risk profile for potential complications over the coming decade.

High Cholesterol Risk: Contributing Factors

You could have an increased likelihood of developing high cholesterol if you:

  1. Eat a lot of unhealthy fats, like the ones in fast food.
  2. Don’t move around much.
  3. Smoke tobacco.
  4. Have family members with high cholesterol.
  5. Have diabetes, kidney problems, or thyroid issues.

People from various age groups, genders, and ethnic backgrounds can experience elevated cholesterol levels.

Understanding the Consequences of Elevated Cholesterol Levels

High cholesterol, if not treated, can lead to a problem where a sticky substance called plaque builds up in your blood pipes (arteries). As time passes, this plaque can make your blood pipes narrower. This problem is called atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a big problem. It can block the blood in your tubes and make it more likely that you’ll get harmful blood lumps.

Atherosclerosis can lead to numerous life-threatening complications, including:

  1. Stroke: Brain attack
  2. Heart attack: Myocardial infarction
  3. Angina, or chest pain: Cardiac angina
  4. High blood pressure: Hypertension
  5. Peripheral vascular disease: Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
  6. Chronic kidney disease: Renal insufficiency

Having high cholesterol can mess up your bile balance and increase the chance of getting gallstones. Check out how else high cholesterol can affect your body.

How to reduce bad fat in your body

If your cholesterol is too high, your doctor might suggest things you can do to make it better. They could tell you to change what you eat, how much you exercise, or how you live every day. If you smoke, they will probably tell you it’s a good idea to stop.

Your doctor might give you pills or other things to help reduce your cholesterol. Sometimes, they might send you to another doctor who’s really good at this stuff.

Managing Cholesterol Levels with Dietary Choices

To assist you in reaching and keeping your cholesterol levels healthy, your doctor might suggest alterations to your eating habits.

For instance, they might suggest.

  1. Be mindful of your cholesterol intake by avoiding foods high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats.
  2. Prioritize lean protein sources like chicken, fish, and legumes in your meals.
  3. Include plenty of high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet.
  4. Choose cooking methods like baking, broiling, steaming, grilling, and roasting over frying.
  5. Minimize fast food and sugary, packaged snacks whenever you can for a healthier heart.

Here are some foods that can be bad for your health because they have a lot of cholesterol, saturated fats,or trans fats:

  1. Fatty Animal Products:
    • Red meat
    • Organ meats
    • Egg yolks
    • High-fat dairy products
  2. Oily Processed Foods:
    • Processed foods with cocoa butter
    • Processed foods with palm oil
  3. Greasy Fried Foods:
    • Potato chips
    • Onion rings
    • Fried chicken
  4. Unhealthy Baked Goods:
    • Certain cookies
    • Some muffins

Eating fish and some other foods with omega-3 fats can help decrease your LDL levels. Like salmon, mackerel, and herring are good sources of omega-3s. Walnuts, almonds, ground flaxseeds, and avocados also have omega-3s in them.

Managing Cholesterol with Medications

Sometimes, your doctor may give you medicine to reduce your cholesterol.

Statins are the medicines most often given to people with high cholesterol. They work by stopping your liver from making extra cholesterol.

Here are some examples of statins.

  1. Atorvastatin (Lipitor):
    • Widely used statin.
    • Lowers LDL cholesterol.
    • Reduces heart disease risk.
  2. Fluvastatin (Lescol):
    • Another statin option.
    • Controls high cholesterol.
    • Suitable for those intolerant to others.
  3. Rosuvastatin (Crestor):
    • Potent statin.
    • Significant LDL reduction.
    • Manages various lipid disorders.
  4. Simvastatin (Zocor):
    • Commonly prescribed statin.
    • Lowers LDL and triglycerides.
    • Prevents heart disease events.
    • Your doctor might also give you different medicines to lower your cholesterol, like:
  1. Niacin: Lowers cholesterol levels.
  2. Bile Acid Resins: Bind to bile acids, reducing cholesterol. Examples include colesevelam, colestipol, and cholestyramine.
  3. Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors: Block cholesterol absorption in the intestine. Example: ezetimibe (Zetia).
  4. PCSK9 Inhibitors: Target a protein that regulates LDL cholesterol. Examples are alirocumab (Praluent) and evolocumab (Repatha).

Niacin lowers cholesterol. Bile Acid Resins bind to bile acids, reducing cholesterol (e.g., colesevelam, colestipol, cholestyramine). Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors block cholesterol absorption (e.g., ezetimibe/Zetia). PCSK9 Inhibitors target LDL cholesterol regulation (e.g., alirocumab/Praluent, evolocumab/Repatha).

Naturally Lower Cholesterol at Home

Sometimes, you can make your cholesterol levels lower without needing medicine. For instance, eating healthy food, exercising often, and not smoking can help.

Some individuals also argue that specific herbal and dietary supplements could potentially reduce cholesterol levels. For example, assertions have been put forth regarding..

  1. Garlic
    • Known for its pungent flavor and numerous health benefits.
    • Often used as a flavoring agent in cooking.
    • Contains allicin, which may have cardiovascular benefits.
  2. Hawthorn
    • A plant commonly used in traditional medicine.
    • Believed to support heart health and reduce blood pressure.
    • Available in various forms, including capsules, teas, and extracts.
  3. Astragalus
    • An herb used in traditional Chinese medicine.
    • Considered an adaptogen, which may help the body handle stress.
    • Used to support the immune system and overall wellness.
  4. Red Yeast Rice
    • A product of rice fermented with a specific type of yeast.
    • Contains compounds that may help lower cholesterol levels.
    • Used as a dietary supplement for heart health.
  5. Plant Sterol and Stanol Supplements
    • Supplements derived from plants that resemble cholesterol in structure.
    • Known to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels in the blood.
    • Often added to foods like margarine and orange juice.
  6. Blond Psyllium (Found in Psyllium Seed Husk)
    • A soluble fiber derived from the seeds of the Plantago ovata plant.
    • Used as a dietary supplement to promote digestive health.
    • May help alleviate constipation and diarrhea.
  7. Ground Flaxseed
    • Ground seeds from the flax plant, also known as linseed.
    • A rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid.
    • Consumed for potential heart and digestive benefits.

The proof for these ideas isn’t the same for all of them. Plus, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t said yes to any of these things for treating high cholesterol. We need to do more research to find out if they really work for this problem.

Make sure to consult your doctor before using any herbal or dietary supplements, as they could potentially affect your current medications.

How to Avoid High Cholesterol

You can’t change the genes that make you more likely to have high cholesterol, but you can take charge of your lifestyle choices to keep it in check.

To reduce your chances of experiencing high cholesterol:

  1. Choose a balanced diet with less cholesterol and animal fats while including plenty of fiber.
  2. Limit your alcohol intake.
  3. Keep your weight in a healthy range.
  4. Stay active through regular exercise.
  5. Say no to smoking for better health.

Make sure to do what your doctor says about checking your cholesterol. If you might have high cholesterol or heart problems, your doctor will probably ask you to get your cholesterol checked regularly.

Grab and go

Usually, high cholesterol doesn’t show any signs. However, if left untreated, it can lead to severe health problems. The good news is that your doctor can assist you in handling it, and often, prevent complications.

To find out if you have high cholesterol, simply request your doctor to check your cholesterol levels, especially if you’re 20 years or older. If they confirm high cholesterol, inquire about available treatment choices.

To reduce your chances of experiencing complications due to high cholesterol, adopt a healthy lifestyle and adhere to your doctor’s prescribed treatment regimen.

Eating good food, moving your body often, and staying away from tobacco can make your cholesterol levels healthy. This also lowers your chances of having problems because of high cholesterol.

 

 

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