Cholesterol has become a common issue nowadays. This is a lifestyle disease more than a medical ailment. There are many types and causes of cholesterol that result in many problems but the best thing is that it has a treatment.
What is Cholesterol?
The body cells have a waxy-like or we can say fat-like substance. This waxy or fat-like substance is cholesterol. The body requires cholesterol for making vitamin D, hormones, and important substances that help in food digestion. The body itself produces cholesterol as per requirement. Cholesterol other than the body comes from meat, cheese, egg yolk, and dairy products.
The excess amount of cholesterol forms plaque in the body after mixing with other substances in the blood. This plaque sticks to the artery walls causing the situation of atherosclerosis. This can result in narrowing or blockage of coronary arteries.
Usually, an excess amount of fatty foods, having a sedentary lifestyle, wearing an extra body weight, smoking tobacco regularly, drinking alcohol frequently, and most importantly having no exercise in daily routine are the basic reasons for carrying high cholesterol levels in the body.
In the lower part of this article, we will come to know about the causes of carrying high cholesterol in detail. Also, we will study the problems or diseases caused due to carrying high cholesterol levels. This article will also cover the diagnosis of cholesterol levels.
Moreover, after completing the study of this article you would be able to understand different ways to control cholesterol levels.
But before going into these details firstly we must know what is lipoprotein. We must know about HDL (High-density lipoprotein, LDL (Low-density lipoprotein), and VLDL (Very low-density protein).
What is Lipoprotein?
Lipoprotein is the combination of fat and protein. They are usually termed HDL, LDL, and VLDL.
What is HDL?
HDL is the shorter form of High-density lipoprotein. It carries back cholesterol from different parts of the body to the liver. Good cholesterol is also the term that describes HDL. The liver removes the cholesterol from the body that comes back into the liver.
What is LDL?
LDL is the shorter form of Low-density lipoprotein. A high level of LDL causes the formation of plaque in arteries. Bad cholesterol is also the term that describes LDL.
What is VLDL?
Very low-density lipoprotein is called VLDL in shorter form. VLDL also helps in the formation of plaque in arteries therefore, it is also known as “bad cholesterol”.
But there is a difference in the primary functioning of LDL and VLDL. Mainly, VLDL carries triglycerides VLDL whereas LDL carries cholesterol.
Causes of High Cholesterol
An unhealthy lifestyle is one of the most common reasons for high cholesterol. These unhealthy lifestyles can be:
Bad Eating Habits
Some meats, dairy products, chocolates, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods, contain saturated fat. Eating too much of this bad fat increases levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) in the body.
Some processed and fried foods contain trans fat, Eating too much trans fat also increases LDL levels in the body.
Less Physical Activity
Less physical activity (sitting too much and exercising too little) results in lowering the levels of HDL (good cholesterol).
Another reason for the high levels of cholesterol may be genetics. Sometimes it may be an inherited problem that one may have high levels of cholesterol.
Sometimes certain medications or medical conditions can result in higher levels of cholesterol.
Sometimes, cholesterol levels start increasing with increasing age. However, it is not necessary in every case. Levels of cholesterol can increase in younger people (children and teens) also.
Obesity or being overweight also results in higher levels of cholesterol.
Cholesterol levels vary from race to race also. Certain races like African Americans have usually higher HDL and LDL cholesterol levels when compared with whites.
Health Problems Caused by High Cholesterol
If plaque is formed in high quantity in arteries, it can result in blood clotting. This blood clotting can lead to partial or complete blood blockage in the coronary artery.
This situation reduces or blocks the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscles resulting in angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.
An excess amount of plaque can also reduce or stop the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain and limbs. This situation can lead to carotid artery disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease.
Diagnosis of High Cholesterol
Usually, high cholesterol has no specific symptoms. The blood test confirms the levels of cholesterol. The time and frequency of cholesterol tests depend on age, family history, and risk factors.
Recommendation for people aging 19 or less
- Children with a family history of high levels of cholesterol, heart attack, or stroke should go under testing at the age of 2 years.
- Children with a healthy family history might go under testing between the age of 9 to 11. They should repeat these tests every five years.
Recommendation for people aging 19 or above
- Test after every 5 years is recommended for younger adults.
- Men between 45 to 65 should be tested at least once in two years.
- Women between 55 to 65 should be tested at least once in two years
How do control high levels of cholesterol?
Healthy lifestyle changes can help in lowering high levels of cholesterol. These healthy lifestyle habits include having a healthy diet plan, maintaining a healthy weight, and regularly doing physical activity or exercise.
If these healthy lifestyle changes do not help in lowering high cholesterol levels considerably, then you need to consult your doctor. The doctor may recommend medicines that can help in lowering high levels of cholesterol.
However, healthy lifestyle habits must continue along with medicines recommended by the doctor.
Sometimes, some patients are recommended lipoprotein apheresis (a treatment of high cholesterol). In this treatment, a machine is used to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood.
As mentioned in this article, there are many types and causes of cholesterol that create many problems but fortunately, it has possible treatments as well. The main thing that we need to do is to change our lifestyle more than medication.