High cholesterol is a very common problem in the United States and around the world. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 94 million adults aged 20 and over in the United States will have high cholesterol. Cholesterol levels.
However, since this condition can often present itself without any real symptoms, you may not even know it until you have seen your doctor.
If you are wondering what causes high cholesterol, what to do if you are diagnosed and if there is a way to reverse it ( yes), read on for all the answers.
What is cholesterol in simple terms?
So, basically, cholesterol is a type of lipid or a waxy, fatty substance that is produced naturally by the liver.
Interestingly, it is vital for the formation of cell membranes, certain hormones, and vitamin D.
However, cholesterol does not dissolve in water, so it cannot travel through the blood on its own. So, to help transport cholesterol in the body, the liver makes lipoproteins.
Now, lipoproteins are molecules made up of fats and proteins and work as a carrier of cholesterol and triglycerides, other types of fats, through the bloodstream.
Well, there are two main forms of lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol is any cholesterol carried by low-density lipoprotein. However, if you have a lot of bad cholesterol in your blood, you can diagnose high-cholesterol. Additionally, without treatment, high cholesterol can lead to many health problems, including heart attacks and strokes.
Importantly, high-cholesterol rarely causes early symptoms. This is why it is important to monitor your cholesterol levels regularly.
LDL cholesterol, or “bad cholesterol”
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol is often referred to as “bad cholesterol.” Moreover, it carries cholesterol in the arteries and if your LDL levels are too high, they can build up in the walls of your arteries.
In addition, this buildup is also known as cholesterol plaque. And, these plaques can constrict arteries, restrict blood flow, and increase the risk of blood clots. And if a blood clot blocks an artery in your heart or brain, it could be a heart attack or stroke.
HDL cholesterol, or “good cholesterol”
HDL cholesterol is sometimes called “good cholesterol”. It helps to bring back LDL cholesterol in the liver to eliminate it from the body. Moreover, it helps prevent cholesterol from accumulating in the arteries.
In addition, when you have healthy levels of HDL cholesterol, it can help reduce your risk of blood clots, heart disease, and stroke.
What are Triglycerides
Well, Triglycerides are another type of lipid and are different from cholesterol. To be more clear, your body uses cholesterol to build cells and certain hormones, it uses triglycerides as a source of energy.
So, whenever you eat more calories than that your body can use right away, it converts those calories into triglycerides. And, stores triglycerides in your fat cells. Additionally, your body uses lipoproteins to circulate triglycerides through your bloodstream.
So, if you regularly eat more calories than your body can use, your triglyceride levels may become too high. Moreover, it can raise your risk of several health problems, including heart disease and stroke.
A simple blood test to measure your triglyceride level, as well as your cholesterol levels can be used by your doctor.
Signs of high cholesterol
In most cases, high cholesterol is considered a “silent” condition. Because it usually does not cause any symptoms. Many people do not realize that they have high-cholesterol until they have serious complications like a heart attack or stroke.
This is why regular cholesterol monitoring is so important. So, if you are 20 years of age or older, ask your doctor if you should have regular cholesterol tests.
causes of high-cholesterol
Eating lots of foods high in cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fats can increase your risk of developing high cholesterol. Moreover, living with obesity can also increase your risk. Additionally, some lifestyle factors that can contribute to high cholesterol include inactivity and smoking.
In addition, genetic factors can also affect your chances of developing high-cholesterol. Genes are passed from parent to child and some genes tell the body how to process cholesterol and fats. So, if your parents have high cholesterol, you are more likely to have it.
In Some rare cases, high-cholesterol results in familial hypercholesterolemia. This genetic disorder prevents your body from eliminating LDL. In fact, According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, most adults with this condition have total cholesterol levels of more than 300 milligrams per deciliter and LDL levels of more than 200 milligrams per deciliter.
Furthermore, some other health conditions, such as diabetes and hypothyroidism, can increase your risk of high-cholesterol and related complications.
Cholesterol levels chart
If you are diagnosed with high cholesterol does not mean that you will get medication. Well, if your doctor prescribes a medication for you, several factors can affect the type of medication he or she recommends.
And, with this in mind, most doctors use common sense to decide on treatment plans. Moreover, they might classify these measurements as desirable, high, or high-cholesterol.
In addition, According to the National Library of Medicine, total cholesterol for most adults can be classified as:
|Less than 200 mg/dL||Desirable|
|200-239 mg/dL||Borderline high|
|240 mg/dL and above||High|
Moreover, The National Library of Medicine also provides optimal to high categories of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels:
|LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels||Category|
|less than 100 mg/dL||Optimal|
|130-159 mg/dL||Borderline high|
|190 mg/dL and above||Very high|
More importantly, these measurements are generally your doctor and you will consider other personal factors before deciding on a treatment plan.
Few recent guidelines for healthy cholesterol levels
Your body needs some cholesterol to function properly with some LDL. But if your LDL levels are too high, it can increase your risk for serious health problems.
In 2018, the American College of Cardiologists and the American Heart Association updated their recommendations for treating high cholesterol.
So, under the new guidelines, in addition tocholesterol levels, treatment recommendations look at other risk factors for heart diseases, such as family history and other health problems. The guidelines use all of these factors to consider the overall possibility that a person will develop complications over the next 10 years.
Risk factors for high cholesterol
You are considered at a higher risk of developing high-cholesterol if you:
- Consume a lot of saturated and trans fats, like those found in fast food
- Are living with obesity
- Smoke tobacco products
- Have a limited physical activity
- You have a family history of highcholesterol
- Have diabetes, kidney disease, or hypothyroidism
- People of all ages, genders, and ethnicities can have its high levels.
Complications of high-cholesterol
Without treatment, high-cholesterol can create plaque in the arteries. Over time, these blades can narrow the arteries. This condition is known as atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a serious disease and can restrict your blood flow through the arteries. Additionally, this increases the risk of dangerous blood clots.
Atherosclerosis can result in many life-threatening complications, as:
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Angina, or chest pain
- Chronic kidney disease
- Peripheral vascular disease
- High-cholesterol can also lead to a bile imbalance, raising your risk of gallstones.
How to lower your cholesterol levels
If you have high cholesterol levels, your doctor may recommend certain lifestyle changes to help reduce them. For example, they may recommend changes in your diet, exercise habits, or other aspects of your daily routine. Additionally, if you smoke, they will probably advise you to quit.
Your doctor may also prescribe other medications or treatments to help lower your cholesterol levels. However, in some cases, they may refer you to a specialist for further care.
Recommend changes in your diet for Lowering cholesterol
The diet changes that will help you in lowering your cholesterol levels.
- Choose lean sources of protein, such as chicken, fish, and legumes.
- Limit your intake of foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats.
- Opt for baked, broiled, steamed, grilled, and roasted foods instead of fried foods.
- Eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Avoid fast food and sugary, pre-packaged options when possible
Foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, trans fats
- Deep-fried foods, such as potato chips, onion rings, and fried chicken
- Red meat, organ meats, egg yolks, and high-fat dairy products
- Processed foods made with cocoa butter or palm oil
- Certain baked goods, such as some cookies and muffins
- Eating fish and other foods containing omega-3 fatty acids can also help reduce LDL levels. For example, salmon, mackerel, and herring are rich sources of omega-3. Walnuts, nuts, flax seeds, and avocados also contain omega 3s.
How to prevent high cholesterol
Well, one can’t control the genetic risk factors for high – cholesterol, however, lifestyle factors can be managed.
To lower the risk of developing high-cholesterol:
- Avoid smoking.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
- Opt. for a nutritious diet that’s low in cholesterol and animal fats, and high in fiber.
- Maintain a moderate weight.
- Exercise regularly.
Generally, high cholesterol has no symptoms and without treatment, it can cause serious health issues. However, your doctor can help you manage this condition, and in many cases, can help you avoid complications.
Moreover, if you want to know whether you have high cholesterol, ask your doctor to test your cholesterol levels, especially if you’re 20 years or older.
Additionally, to lower your risk of complications from increased cholesterol levels, practice healthy lifestyle habits and follow your doctor’s recommended treatment plan.
Furthermore, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding tobacco products may help you achieve and maintain healthy cholesterol levels. And, could also help lower your risk of complications from high cholesterol.