High cholesterol levels put you at risk of heart diseases in addition to other lifestyle-related health problems. Hereditary factors can make people
High cholesterol levels put you at risk of heart diseases in addition to other lifestyle-related health problems. Hereditary factors can make people more susceptible to high cholesterol levels, but it is usually the result of an unhealthy lifestyle. In the latter case, the condition is preventable and treatable. Read on to discover what cholesterol is, the risks associated with it, and ways of controlling it.
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What is High Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance produced by the liver with additional coming from the food you consume. It helps your body in building healthy cells, making hormones, digestive fluids, and vitamin D. However, having too much cholesterol, a condition known as hypercholesterolemia or hyperlipidemia, becomes a problem – it exposes you to serious health problems. There are two forms of cholesterol;
- Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL): Which is the ‘bad’ or unhealthy cholesterol.
- High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL): The ‘good’ cholesterol, which removes LDL from the arteries and transports them back to the liver for elimination.
So, how then do you know your lipid levels are high? High levels of cholesterol do not show any notable signs. They, however, cause emergency attacks such as heart attack or stroke. Since you cannot easily tell that you have too much cholesterol in your body, you should schedule regular blood checkups with your doctor every 4-6 years. A cholesterol level above 240 mg/dl is considered high.
Common Risk Factors Associated With High Cholesterol
If cholesterol plaque builds up inside a coronary artery, it affects the efficient flow of blood into and out of the heart. The build-up happens slowly over time, and in the long run, the affected heart muscle may die due to the lack of oxygen and nutrients. When this happens, you experience a heart attack.
If your heart is continuously deprived of oxygen-rich blood and suffers from plaque build-up, the muscles begin to constrict and may lead to frequent chest pains (angina).
When cholesterol build-up affects your stomach, it leads to the formation of gallstones. The gallstones, in turn, affect the digestive system causing frequent stomach pains.
Too much fat in the body causes a build-up of plaque that narrows down your arteries and changes the makeup of the arterial lining. The plaque affects the flow of blood throughout the body, including the brain. A shortage of blood flow into the brain can cause a stroke.
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)
When cholesterol levels in the blood increase, resulting in the blockage of arteries, they reduce blood flow to other areas of the body, such as kidneys, arms, legs, feet, and stomach. Some of the common symptoms of PAD include cramping, fatigue, achiness and discomfort in the feet and legs.
Controlling Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol in your body is manageable, and you can control it through the following;
Besides being produced by the liver, the food you eat also contributes to your body’s cholesterol levels. Regular consumption of foods rich in saturated fats such as red meat, processed foods, and dairy products can increase cholesterol levels. Instead, go for healthier food such as lean meat and low dairy products. Additionally, eat foods with lots of omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon, walnuts, and almonds in addition to green leafy vegetables and fruits. Besides, substitute your regular intake of carbonated drinks and alcohol with water.
Regular exercise helps in burning extra calories in your body. It helps shed off some excess fat deposited on body tissues. Besides, aerobic exercises are good for the heart, thus reducing your exposure to heart-related diseases. Engage in physical activities such as riding a bike, walking, or going to the gym. If you have other health issues such as high blood pressure or asthma, seek approval from your doctor before engaging in strenuous exercise.
In severe cases where lifestyle changes seem ineffective, your doctor may recommend some medications to control your cholesterol levels. These medications work differently; for example, statins work to lower cholesterol production by the liver. On the other hand, other cholesterol medications aim to reduce LDL levels while increasing HDL levels. You should take these medications while still making some lifestyle changes.
In conclusion, your lifestyle has a lot to do with cholesterol levels in your body. Therefore, to avoid being a victim of high cholesterol levels, eat a healthy diet, and make good lifestyle choices!
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