What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found throughout the body. The liver makes cholesterol for your body, but cholesterol can also be obtained from the food you eat. Foods such as meat, fish, eggs, butter, cheese, and milk are good sources of cholesterol, whereas fruits, vegetables and grains do not have any cholesterol.
There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. LDL is commonly referred to as the “bad” cholesterol. It transports cholesterol to the tissues throughout your body. On the other hand, HDL is referred to as the “good” cholesterol. It takes up excess cholesterol and sends it back to your liver to be broken down.
Healthy cells need cholesterol but too much cholesterol can cause complications.
Why is high cholesterol a problem?
Since cholesterol is found in the bloodstream, too much cholesterol can cause the blood vessels to get stiffer, narrower, or clogged. Too much LDL cholesterol in the blood increases fatty deposits in the walls of arteries and consequently may result in blockages, or clots. To the same effect, too little HDL cholesterol reduces the amount of cholesterol that can be removed from your arteries, which can also result in cholesterol buildup known as “plaque”. Over time this may cause atherosclerosis, chest pain, heart attacks, or strokes.
What causes high cholesterol?
High cholesterol can be inherited genetically, but more often is a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices. Risk factors for high cholesterol include an unhealthy diet, a lack of physical activity, smoking, obesity, diabetes, and family history of high cholesterol.
How is high cholesterol treated?
High cholesterol has no symptoms, so a blood test is required to detect your cholesterol levels. To prevent high cholesterol, a balanced diet and regular exercise is recommended. However, if cholesterol levels are already high, lifestyle changes can have a significant impact. Many dietary changes can help lower cholesterol levels. A diet with less sugar, saturated fats, and trans fats, as well as a limited consumption of red meat, dairy products made with whole milk, and fried food, is often recommended. Instead, diets should consist of more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts. Moreover, diets high in fiber can help lower cholesterol levels.
A lack of exercise lowers the good HDL cholesterol, which means there is proportionally much more bad LDL cholesterol in your arteries. So, increasing physical activity can help with this issue. Additionally, weight loss can improve your cholesterol levels.
Smoking lowers the good HDL cholesterol, so quitting smoking can also help to protect your arteries.
If these changes do not improve cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medications.
If you are worried about possibly having high cholesterol, call to schedule an appointment today.