What is cholesterol? We can find cholesterol in every cell of our body. Cholesterol is used in our body to build healthy cells and is essential for the production of some vital hormones.
What is the problem of having high blood cholesterol? When you have high blood cholesterol, it can build up and deposit on the walls of your arteries, forming so-called atherosclerosis. At some point, these deposits, which are called plaques, may compromise blood flow through the arteries, reducing it. In this case, your heart no longer receives from coronary arteries the amount of oxygen rich blood it needs for proper functioning, and this can cause chest pain (angina) and other symptoms of coronary artery disease.
If the plaque fractures or breaks, a blood clot can be formed, blocking the passage of blood, or become detached and troves in your blood to clot another artery in another area of your body. If the blood stops circulation in a part of your heart, you will have an acute myocardial infarction. A decrease in blood flow to the brain can cause a stroke.
What are the reasons for having high cholesterol in the blood?
Cholesterol is transported in your blood by proteins. The combination of these with cholesterol is called lipoprotein. There are three types of cholesterol according with the lipoproteins that they carry:
• Low density lipoprotein, LDL, or "bad" cholesterol deposits on the wall of your arteries,
making them rigid and narrow;
triglycerides, another type of "fat." The VLDL-cholesterol has the same harmful action
on the arteries as LDL-cholesterol. If you are taking medication to reduce cholesterol,
but still maintain a high level of VLDL-c, probably your doctor will prescribe you
medication to bring it down, since it is rich in triglycerides.
• High-density Lipoproteins, HDL, or "good" cholesterol. This type of cholesterol "cleans"
the cholesterol that is in excess in the arteries and carries it back to the liver.
What causes hypercholesterolemia?
Many factors, known as risk factors, which you can fix, contribute to high levels of LDL-c and low HDL-c. Other factors exist, that cannot be fixed, can contribute to hypercholesterolemia: genetic inheritance, which can lead cells to not remove "bad" cholesterol efficiently or cause your liver to produce to more cholesterol.
It is more likely that your high cholesterol willlead to cardiovascular disease (heart and blood vessels) or stroke (brain and blood vessels) if you have the following risk factors:
• Tobacco: HDL-c smoking harms arterial walls, making them more willing to accumulate deposits of fat. "Smoking also decreases the level of your "good" cholesterol, the HDL-c.
• Obesity: being overweight or obese puts you at great risk of having high cholesterol.
• Inappropriate Diet: foods high in cholesterol such as red meat and "fatty" dairy products increase the levels of cholesterol. Eating saturated fat found in animal products, or trans fat, found in some marketed cakes and biscuits may also increase these levels.
• Sedentary: exercise raises your "good" cholesterol (HDL-c), and reduces your "bad" cholesterol.
• High blood pressure: The blood pressure inside the arteries causes damage, which accelerates atherosclerosis.
• Diabetes: high blood glucose (sugar) contributes to an increase in LDL-c and decreases of HDL-c, as well as damaging the walls of arteries.
• Family history of heart disease: if you have a relative who has developed heart disease before age 55, having high cholesterol will put you at higher risk.
What values of cholesterol are considered normal?
First, it is important to know that should be fasting from 9 to 12 hours (without eating or drinking) before drawing blood for analysis of cholesterol values. The values of total cholesterol should be, in most cases, less than 200 mg / dl.
In relation to the values of "bad" cholesterol, the LDL-c, these vary with the existence of other diseases or other risk factors in addition to hypercholesterolemia. Most people should take the values below 130 mg / dl. If you have other risk factors for heart disease, you should have LDL-c below 100 mg / dl. You should keep LDL-c below 70 mg / dl when in high risk of heart disease, or if you have had a stroke, if you are diabetic, or have two or more of the following risk factors: smoking, hypertension, low HDL-c family history of heart disease, age over 45 years if male and 55 years if female.
How to treat high cholesterol?
High cholesterol in blood (hypercholesterolemia) is preventable and treatable. Lifestyle changes are the first line of defence against high cholesterol:
• Lose excess weight: reflect honestly about your eating habits and daily routine. Identify the real obstacles that have to be overcome in your fight with weight, and always ask advice from your doctor in how to do this on the most balanced and appropriate way.
• Adopt a healthy diet! Even if you have years of bad eating habits, making some changes in your diet may reduce your cholesterol and improve your cardiovascular health. In the following table you will find foods that should avoid and others that will help you to reduce cholesterol:
• Do exercise every day! Whether you have excess weight or normal weight, exercise
can help reduce the "bad" cholesterol as well as rising levels of your good cholesterol (HDL-c). Ask your doctor what type of exercise is most suitable for you.
• Stop smoking! Stopping smoking improves your HDL-c. And the benefits do not end here. After 20 minutes of smoking the last cigarette, your blood pressure decreases. After 24 hours, your risk of having a heart attack decreases. After one year, your risk of having heart disease is half that of a smoker. After 15 years, your risk of heart disease finally becomes equal to a non smoker!
• Drink alcohol with moderation. This means that women should not drink more than one drink per day, and men more than two. The excessive intake of alcohol can cause serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke.
• In addition to these changes in lifestyle, your doctor will also, if necessary, prescribe drugs to lower cholesterol. Take the medication as prescribed. If the side effects or the price is a problem, don't stop taking the medication: tell your doctor promptly!