12 High Cholesterol

Putting the squeeze on blood flow

Harmony Latham, Heriberto Ramos Castro, and Claudia Palacios

High cholesterol levels are one of the leading causes of coronary heart disease around the world. Statistics show that each year, more than one million individuals will suffer from heart disease. Although genetics play a major role in determining the cholesterol level in an individual, cholesterol levels can be controlled. A high cholesterol diagnosis carries an increased risk of heart attack or stroke and limits blood flow. Typically, high cholesterol itself is asymptomatic. Eventually, high cholesterol within the body will lead to developing deposits within arteries. When these deposits grow, it makes it difficult for blood to flow through the arteries. If the deposits break loose from the wall, they can form a clot that causes heart attacks or strokes. Having routine blood tests can show whether your cholesterol levels are healthy. To help level the cholesterol in a healthy range, people may need heart-healthy lifestyle changes or medicine.

 

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a substance found in the blood. The body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but a high level can increase heart disease risk. Having high cholesterol levels in the blood can lead to fatty deposits in your blood vessels. The body does need cholesterol “to make hormones, vitamin D, and digestive fluids” (MedlinePlus, 2020). Cholesterol also helps your organs function properly. It can have positive and negative effects on the body.

What can it do to us?

The negative effects are present when the cholesterol levels are high. The most common cause of high cholesterol is an “unhealthy lifestyle, led by poor eating habits, lack of physical activities, and/or smoking” (MedlinePlus, 2020). High levels are a risk factor for heart disease, which can be life-threatening. Many things can raise the risk of high cholesterol, such as age, heredity, and weight. “Too much cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke” (CDC, 2020), which is important to maintain routine blood work and live a healthy life.

Many people think that working out and losing weight can lower cholesterol levels, but this statement is not entirely true. The body needs its’ healthy cells to reduce the risk of heart disease. A healthy way to reduce the high cholesterol levels is by eating fruits and vegetables and avoiding foods high in fat as butter or meat. If someone has too much cholesterol in the blood, it can “combine with other substances in the blood to form plaque” (American Heart Association, 2020). The plaque will stick to each other and adhere to the walls of the arteries. The buildup of plaque is known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is where the “coronary arteries become narrow or even blocked, which restricts adequate blood flow” (American Heart Association, 2020). Typically, the blood flow is restricted to the heart muscle and causes a heart attack. People don’t know that their own blood is carried throughout the body via lipoproteins. There are two types of cholesterol: the “low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which can be called the bad cholesterol, and the high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is called the good cholesterol” (Blood Cholesterol, 2020). Having HDL cholesterol can lower the risk of heart attacks, strokes, or other health conditions.

 

 

The 2 types of Cholesterol – Explained.

  • Low-Density Lipoprotein- Transports cholesterol from the liver to the tissues of the body. LDL cholesterol is therefore considered the “bad” cholesterol.
  • High-Density Lipoprotein- It is sometimes called the “good” cholesterol because it carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. Your liver then removes the cholesterol from your body. 

Prevent it, so you don’t have to treat it!

It can be challenging to choose healthy choices in a world full of quick, easy, convenient, and fried foods. However, when presented with cholesterol levels and how they affect every aspect of our well-being, it is important to start a healthy lifestyle.

 

A healthy cholesterol conscious diet has to  “focus on fat” and choose fresh and high in unsaturated fats. The most natural and raw foods will fall into this category; seldom will processed foods be appropriate for maintaining a healthy lifestyle (Harvard Health Publishing, 2020). It is also important to choose “whole grains” to regulate blood sugar and give the illusion of fullness longer (Harvard Health Publishing, 2020). Making healthy choices is a necessary part of cholesterol, healthy lifestyle.

Finally, if a healthy diet and exercise are not enough, your medical provider will be able to prescribe medication to assist in lowering the bad cholesterol in your body. These typically are “statin drugs”; however, others are available if you cannot take statin drugs (Harvard Health Publishing, 2020). By following a cholesterol healthy lifestyle, one can minimize the risk of a heart attack.

 

 

The Nitty Gritty Takeaway

For every 10% drop in cholesterol levels, a person can expect a 20-30% decrease in risk of a heart attack (Harvard Health Publishing, 2020). Remembering that choosing a healthy lifestyle for cholesterol benefits will also increase general health and wellness. You may see better sleep patterns, better skin tone, increased energy levels, and so much more when a healthy lifestyle is chosen. The body “produces all of the cholesterol it needs,” so do not feel pressured to assist the body by consuming extra cholesterol (CDC, 2020). By eating simply and choosing the correct unsaturated fats, and mitigating the LDL concentration, you will be able to lower “your risk of heart disease and stroke” (CDC, 2020).

Check these out for further Cholesterol fun facts – References

American Heart Association. (2020, November 6).Atherosclerosis.www.heart.org. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/about-cholesterol/atherosclerosis.

Blood cholesterol. (2020, October 2). NHLBI, NIH. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-cholesterol.

Cholesterol. (2020, September 9). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/index.htm.

Cholesterol. (2020, September 24). MedlinePlus – Health Information from the National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/cholesterol.html.

Preventing High Cholesterol. (2020, September 3). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/prevention.htm.

Harvard Health Publishing. (, 2020). 4 ways to keep your cholesterol in check. HarvardHealth.https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/4-ways-to-keep-your-cholesterol-in-check.

 

Authors:

Harmony Latham

Heriberto Ramos Castro

Claudia Palacios

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Good Health and Well-Being by Harmony Latham, Heriberto Ramos Castro, and Claudia Palacios is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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