Cholesterol is waxy substance that is found in the cells of our body. It is made by our liver and is also found in several food items like meat and dairy products. While we need some amount of cholesterol for our body to function normally, too much of it in the blood can lead to health issues like coronary artery disease.
With high cholesterol, one can develop fatty deposits in the blood vessels. Ultimately, these deposits grow, thus making it tough for enough blood to flow through the arteries. Sometimes, the deposits can suddenly break and form a clot which causes a heart attack or a stroke.
While high cholesterol can be inherited, it is often due to unhealthy lifestyle choices, which can be prevented and treated. Regular exercise and healthy diet and medication can sometimes help reduce high cholesterol.
Difference between good cholesterol and bad cholesterol
Cholesterol is transported through the blood, attached to proteins. This combination (of proteins and cholesterol) is known as lipoprotein. Lipoprotein is catergorised into different types based on what the lipoprotein carries. They include:
- LDL or Low-density lipoprotein: Also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol, LDLcarries cholesterol particles throughout our body. LDL builds up in the walls of arteries, making them harder and narrower.
- HDL or High-density lipoprotein: Also known as ‘good’ cholesterol, HDL, picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to the liver.
Blood Cholesterol Levels – Table
Here is a table that lists the acceptable levels of total cholesterol, bad cholesterol, good cholesterol, and triglycerides.
|Total Cholesterol||Less than 200||200-239||240 and higher|
|LDL Cholesterol||Less than 130||130-159||160 and higher|
|HDL Cholesterol||50 and higher||40-49||Less than 40|
|Triglycerides||Less than 200||200-399||400 and higher|
Symptoms of high cholesterol
High cholesterol often does not show any symptoms. You may have high cholesterol levels for years without knowing about it. When your body has high cholesterol, it eventually leads to a build-up on the walls. This build-up is known as plaque which may harden over time and narrow the arteries.
This is where health issues start. Your body needs to transfer a certain amount of blood to every organ. When the arteries get narrowed, the blood flow to the organs from the heart gets hindered and causes serious health problems. The hardened plaque may also break into pieces and lead to the formation of blood clots which completely block the flow of blood. In some cases, the arteries may get completely clogged with plaque accumulation .
A blocked artery to the heart because of either of the reasons can cause a heart attack. Similarly, a blocked artery to the brain may lead to a stroke. The only way to detect high cholesterol is through regular blood tests. Unfortunately, most people discover their high cholesterol levels only after they experience a life-threatening event.
What causes high cholesterol levels?
There are several causes of high cholesterol. They are:
- Diet: Cholesterol is naturally produced by our liver. But we also get it from our food, especially dairy items and meat. Eating too much of these food items can cause high cholesterol in the body.
- Lifestyle: Obesity is one of the major causes of high cholesterol. This is further complicated by inactivity which reduces the levels of HDL (good cholesterol) in the body.
- Genetics: Your genetics can also affect your cholesterol levels. Research on the topic has indicated that cholesterol tends to run in the family, and individuals with good eating habits and active lifestyles may also have high levels of bad cholesterol.
- Smoking: Some research studies have also found a relationship between smoking and high cholesterol.
How is high cholesterol diagnosed?
While high cholesterol does not show any clear signs and symptoms, you can get it diagnosed with a simple blood test. It is advisable that men and women above the age of 35 should get their cholesterol checked from time to time. Young individuals (20-35 years old) with high-risk factors should have their cholesterol checked by their physician to avoid heart diseases. Risk factors include:
- Having an immediate family member with heart disease
- High blood pressure
How is high cholesterol treated?
High cholesterol is treated with dietary and lifestyle changes. Your doctor may ask you to get active and take up a form of exercise that is ideal for you. You may also be advised to cut down on the foods that contain bad cholesterol and include have a low calorie and low fat diet . If you are overweight, you will be required to lose some weight and get into the healthy weight category for your height and age.
Focus on plant-based foods, like fruits, vegetables as well as whole grains. Limit trans fats (found in various processed foods) and saturated fats (found in full-fat dairy products and red meat). Monounsaturated fat (found in canola and olive oils) is a healthier option. Other sourced of healthy fat include nuts, avocados and oily fish.
When it comes to exercise, you may have to talk to your doctor and also find an exercise routine that is best for you.
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Is cholesterol treated with medicines?
Your doctor may prescribe medicines to treat high levels of cholesterol . You may be prescribed one or more of these at a time:
- Bile acid binding Resins
- Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors
- PCSK9 Inhibitors
Every medicine type in this list has its functions and may be prescribed to you according to your body’s needs. It is advisable to take these medicines under the guidance of a certified medical professional.
If you are above the age of 35, are overweight, or have the risk factors of heart disease, you should ask your doctor for a cholesterol check. . Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Is a cholesterol level of 6.4 high?
6.4 mmol/liter is considered mildly high cholesterol. Moderately high levels of cholesterol fall between 6.5 – 7.8 mmol/liter.
2. What reduces cholesterol quickly?
A change in diet and exercise can reduce cholesterol quickly. You will have to be mindful of your fat intake and consume more fresh fruits and vegetables. Talk to your doctor about exercise and create a daily routine under the supervision of a trained instructor.
3. Are bananas good for cholesterol?
Yes, bananas are good for cholesterol. Some other fruits that can lower cholesterol in the body are oranges, apples, and avocados.
5. Does walking lower cholesterol?
Walking raises good cholesterol levels in the body and reduces bad cholesterol. Doctors advise a 30-minute brisk walk three times per week for effective cholesterol control.
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