As Stress Rises Cholesterol Levels Rise
When a stressful situation occurs, a gland near your brainstem called the hypothalamus secretes the hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones raise your heart rate, blood pressure, and increases blood flow to your brain. This process prepares your body to either flee from the stress or fight against it.
Adrenaline and cortisol signal the liver to produce cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that provides your body with energy, and repairs damaged cells. The energy helps you with fleeing from or fighting against the stress. However, if you don’t retreat from the stress or fight to lower it, your body continues to produce adrenaline and cortisol, which leads to an overproduction of cholesterol. Since this energy from the cholesterol is not used, the extra fat substance begins to accumulate in arteries, which can lead to heart disease.
Cortisol also produces sugar, another energy source. When this energy is unused, the sugar turns into triglycerides. These triglycerides are fatty tissues that usually end up in the abdominal, increasing the risk for heart disease.
Sample Collection & Processing
The study protocol involved collecting fasting blood sample from each participant by 9.00am. The samples were collected from the same students on each of the following periods:
One-three hours before any major examination , and
Three-four weeks before any major examination .
Subjects were made to relax before sample collection which was done with minimal stasis and pain. Samples consist of 5mls of venous blood collected aseptically from antecubital vein and dispensed into fluoride oxalate tube for blood sugar estimation and plain venoject® tube for other studies. The blood in the plain tube were transported to the lab in ice pack, centrifuged immediately using refrigerated centrifuge and an aliquot of the separated sera stored frozen until analyzed within 48 hours, for cortisol and adrenaline levels. The rest were stored at 4°C for the estimation of lipid profile within 48 hours. Both samples and reagents were brought to room temperature before analysis.
Commercial control serum was included in each assay to evaluate the assay method and technique.
What Should My Cholesterol Levels Be
Blood cholesterol is measured in units called millimoles per litre of blood, often shortened to mmol/L.
As a general guide, total cholesterol levels should be:
- 5mmol/L or less for healthy adults
- 4mmol/L or less for those at high risk
As a general guide, LDL levels should be:
- 3mmol/L or less for healthy adults
- 2mmol/L or less for those at high risk
An ideal level of HDL is above 1mmol/L. A lower level of HDL can increase your risk of heart disease.
Your ratio of total cholesterol to HDL may also be calculated. This is your total cholesterol level divided by your HDL level. Generally, this ratio should be below four, as a higher ratio increases your risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol is only one risk factor. The level at which specific treatment is required will depend on whether other risk factors, such as smoking and high blood pressure, are also present.
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What Kind Of Research Was This
This was a;cross-sectional study;that explored whether there is a link between job stress and abnormal levels of fats in the blood.
Some studies have found a link between job stress and an increased risk of coronary disease. There are various theories about how this link might come about for example, by stress increasing the likelihood of unhealthy habits such as smoking.
Some studies have also suggested that stress could directly influence levels of lipids in the blood by possibly adversely affecting the body’s metabolism. However, these studies have been small and in selected populations, and have had mixed results.
In the current study, researchers wanted to assess stress and lipid levels in a large representative sample of workers. As this study is cross-sectional, both stress and lipid levels were assessed at the same time. This means the study cannot establish whether participants’ lipid levels were directly influenced by their stress levels.
Stress And Cholesterol Link
There is compelling evidence that your level of stress can cause an increase in bad cholesterol indirectly. For example, one study found that stress is positively linked to having less healthy dietary habits, a higher body weight, and a less healthy diet, all of which are known risk factors for high cholesterol. This was found to be especially true in men.
Another study that focused on over 90,000 people found that those who self-reported being more stressed at work had a greater chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol. This may be because the body releases a hormone called cortisol in response to stress. High levels of cortisol from long-term stress may be the mechanism behind how stress can increase cholesterol. Adrenaline may also be released, and these hormones can trigger a fight or flight response to deal with the stress. This response will then trigger triglycerides, which can boost bad cholesterol.
Regardless of the physical reasons why stress can impact cholesterol, multiple studies show a positive correlation between high stress and high cholesterol. While there are other factors that can contribute to high cholesterol, it seems that stress can be one, too.
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What Can I Do About Stress
Fortunately, you can manage stress in ways such as:
- Exercising regularly. It can relieve stress, tension, anxiety and depression. Consider a nature walk, meditation or yoga.
- Making time for friends and family. Its important to maintain social connections and talk with people you trust.
- Getting enough sleep. Adults should aim for seven to nine hours a night.
- Maintaining a positive attitude.
- Practicing relaxation techniques while listening to music.
- Finding a stimulating hobby that can be fun and distract you from negative thoughts or worries.
Figuring out how stress pushes your buttons is an important step in dealing with it. Identify sources of stress in your life and look for ways to reduce and manage them. A health care professional can help you find ways to manage your stress.
Stress management or relaxation classes can also help. Look for them at community colleges, rehab programs, in hospitals or by calling a therapist in your community.
Adopting serenity in the face of lifes challenges may help improve your perception of stress and result in better quality of life and heart health.
Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.
When Should My Cholesterol Levels Be Tested
Your GP may recommend that you have your blood cholesterol levels tested if you:
- have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, stroke or mini stroke , or peripheral arterial disease
- have a family history of early;cardiovascular disease
- have a close family member who has a cholesterol-related condition
- are overweight
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Why Are High Blood Cholesterol Levels Bad
Cholesterol has a wax-like constitution and therefore, cannot dissolve in blood, which is water based.
It, therefore, piggy rides on the back of the proteins to travel in the bloodstream and feed the body cells. This combination of proteins and cholesterol is called lipoproteins.
Due to its waxy and sticky nature, an;excess of cholesterol in the blood tends to stick to the inner walls of the arteries hardening the arterial walls.
Over time, this narrows down the lumen of the arteries and further can occlude it causing loss of blood supply to concerned part of the body. This is referred to as atherosclerosis.
- In the heart, this can cause angina or a heart attack.
- In the brain, this can cause a stroke.
- In the peripheral parts of the body, this can cause peripheral vascular disease.
These are enough significant reasons to emphasize, why you should keep your cholesterol levels in check.
The main culprits whose high levels can cause these complications are LDL and triglycerides.
Here is the list of reasons that can cause your serum cholesterol levels to rise:
Health Conditions That Lead To High Cholesterol
A number of health conditions can lead to high cholesterol levels, and high cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, including heart attack. Knowing your risk is the first step to prevention.
Health conditions known to increase cholesterol levels include:
These health conditions raise cholesterol levels for different reasons. First, the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood essentially reflect the body’s metabolism of the fat that we eat in a day, says Nicholls.
“Diabetes and thyroid disorders can affect the way we metabolize cholesterol and triglycerides,” which then has a direct effect on triglyceride and cholesterol levels in the blood, he says. So when these conditions slow down metabolism, the body isn’t able to process everything it needs to, including fats and cholesterol.
In conditions like alcoholism and liver disease, the liver;is not functioning at full capacity, so it can’t metabolize all of the saturated fat from the diet and the cholesterol that the body produces. Because of this, cholesterol builds up in the blood, Nicholls explains.
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Stress And Heart Disease: Whats The Link
Stress can increase inflammation in your body, which in turn is linked to factors that can harm your heart, such as;high blood pressure;and lower good HDL cholesterol, Blaha says.
But chronic stress can also affect your heart in a more indirect way. When youre worried, you tend to sleep poorly. Youre also less likely to exercise, make healthy food choices, or watch your weight, Blaha says. All of these lifestyle changes can put your heart health at risk.
Medications And Alternative Supplements
If reducing stress hasnt sufficiently reduced high cholesterol, there are medications and alternative remedies that you can try.
These medications and remedies include:
- omega-3 fatty acids
Whether using prescription medications or alternative supplements, always consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment plan. Even if theyre natural, small changes in a treatment plan can interfere with medications or supplements youre already taking.
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Tips To Keep Stress From Hurting Your Heart
Everyone reacts to stress differently, and how you react can lead to health issues.
Periods of excessive and pervasive stress may affect behaviors and factors that increase heart disease risk, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating.
Your body’s response to stress can include a headache, back strain, stomach pains and other physical symptoms. Stress also can make you feel tired, disturb normal sleep patterns, and leave you feeling irritable, forgetful and out of control. When stress is constant, your body remains in high gear off and on for days or weeks at a time, which can lead to health problems.
Can managing stress reduce or prevent heart disease?
Managing stress levels always is a good idea when it comes to your overall health. Studies are underway looking more closely into whether managing stress reduces risk for heart disease. Patients who have experienced a heart attack or stroke and feel depressed, anxious or overwhelmed by stress should contact their health care provider for additional help.
Beginning stress management process
Reducing stress can take many forms. Understanding your triggers, identifying your stress symptoms and recognizing what triggers your heightened stress levels can start the stress management process. The first step in this process is to identify ways to reduce pressures and control what can be controlled. Ask yourself what you can stop doing and what you can let go of.
Hereditary Cause Of High Cholesterol
You can inherit this high cholesterol trait from your parents. Family history will be a giveaway for this familial hypercholesterolemia predisposition.
If one or both of your parents, a brother or a sister has this condition, you too, are likely to develop this disorder and it can further put you at a high risk of premature cardiac complications;if you do take care of it.
Family history is a warning sign and cautions that you are at a greater risk of developing high dangerous cholesterol levels.
People with high cholesterol due to hereditary causes have extremely high cholesterol levels of 300 milligrams per deciliter or higher. Such people may show symptoms such as deposits of cholesterol over their tendons or under their eyelids .
Early diagnosis and management is the key to reducing the risk.
Unfortunately, estimates tell us that 90% of people with familial hypercholesterolemia are undiagnosed and harbor the risk.
Fortunately, the hereditary cause of high cholesterol is rare. Its incidence is not so high; familial hypercholesterolemia occurs in roughly 1 in 500 people worldwide if there is family history from only one parent.
If both the parents have high cholesterol, the chances of their child developing this disorder is about 1:1,000,000
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Depression And Popular Fiction
Low cholesterol is one of the most common factors I see in treatment refractory depression.
In stating that, I evaluate total cholesterol levels of all patients suffering from depression. I find that a total cholesterol level below 150 mg/dL is often a contributing factor to depression. Raising cholesterol levels by dietary interventions or adjusting statin medication for some patients may be the key to treating their depression.
I am going to end this blog with a list of references that support the link between low cholesterol and mental health. Please be sure to check out the references below.
Hypothyroidism And High Cholesterol
The thyroid gland situated in the neck in front of the windpipe can become overactive or underactive.
Thyroid hormones help to produce cholesterol in the body and also to get rid of any excess of it in order to maintain normal levels.
An underactive thyroid means that lower levels of the thyroid hormones are circulating in the blood and subsequently, your body is unable to break down the LDL cholesterol as efficiently. This causes more cholesterol to float around in the blood.
An overactive thyroid has the opposite effect and can drop the levels to abnormally low values.
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Why Reducing Stress Is Much More Important Than Lowering Cholesterol
Most people believe that heart attacks are due to fatty foods that elevate blood cholesterol, which somehow clogs up the coronary arteries and eventually obstructs blood flow. As a result, we are urged to restrict fat, and if necessary, lower cholesterol with statins, which block the production of cholesterol, and/or other drugs that inhibit its absorption. But cholesterol is a large, inert molecule, and since it is difficult to see how it could infiltrate the arterial wall, it is now claimed that coronary disease is caused by LDL bad cholesterol. However, consider the following dozen facts:
The Stress And Cholesterol Connection
You may have never thought about stress raising your cholesterol before, but medical professionals are becoming more and more concerned about it each day.Chronic stress, whether its from a difficult job with many deadlines, or a strained personal life, can cause lipid concentrations in the body to rise. Over time, LDL cholesterol the bad kind can accumulate in the arteries, causing atherosclerosis, which reduces overall blood flow.;Heart disease;is the number one killer of men and women in the United States, so your cholesterol levels are nothing to play around with.
Stress also stimulates the production of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline in the body. These hormones spur your body to release triglycerides and free-floating fatty acids, which can in turn increase your LDL cholesterol level.
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Does Alcohol Cause High Cholesterol
Drinking alcohol and increased cholesterol levels are essentially connected.;According to a Japanese study conducted by the Japans Hyogo College of Medicine, even occasional heavy drinking can significantly boost the levels of blood cholesterol.
The study concluded that both occasional heavy drinkers and;regular heavy drinkers;have higher cholesterol, triglyceride, and overall blood-borne fat-related risks than nondrinkers.
So, does that mean you can drink in moderation? The answer is an emphatic No. Check this out.
Although 30 ml of alcohol consumption increase your HDL, it also simultaneously raises your triglyceride levels, thereby increasing your heart risk.
Again, the American heart association recommends that beginning to drink alcohol can increase the risk of addiction.
Secondly, alcoholism leads to a damaged liver, which then cannot metabolize the saturated fats from the diet and the;cholesterol that the body produces. This leads to cholesterol buildup in the blood.