What Is High Cholesterol
High cholesterol is when there’s too much bad cholesterol and/or not enough good cholesterol in your blood.
This picture shows what it looks like if you have low cholesterol, normal cholesterol and bad cholesterol levels.
Sometimes health professionals talk about the terms dyslipidaemia and hyperlipidaemia. Both are clinical terms that mean your levels of cholesterol are outside the normal range.
Symptoms of high cholesterol
You won’t know if you have high cholesterol because it doesn’t usually have symptoms. The only way to know is to have a blood test.
Why does high cholesterol matter?
When your cholesterol is too high it can build up as plaque in your arteries. If the plaque gets too big, or breaks off, it can cause a heart attack and stroke. This risk also increases when your triglycerides are too high.
Your doctor will use the results of your blood test and your other heart attack risk factors to decide whether you need medication to lower your cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
What Are The Risks Linked To High Cholesterol
Too much LDL cholesterol in the blood can increase your risk of heart and blood vessel disease .
The excess LDL cholesterol leads to fatty deposits called plaque forming in the artery walls. Over time, the plaque causes narrowing and hardening of the arteries .
This can lead to:
- Angina when plaque builds up in the major arteries that supply your heart, known as the coronary arteries, they become narrower and are partially blocked, reducing blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart. This may cause shortness of breath and chest pain.
- Heart attack if a plaque in a coronary artery bursts , a clot may form and block the supply of blood to the heart, starving it of oxygen.
- Stroke if the blood vessels that supply the brain become narrower or blocked by plaque, blood supply to the brain can be severely reduced or cut off, causing a stroke. Strokes can also be caused when a clot from another part of the body travels through the blood and lodges in an artery in the brain.
- Peripheral vascular disease this usually affects the arteries that supply the legs and feet, causing leg pain when walking , and even pain when resting, when the circulation is more badly affected
A high level of HDL cholesterol is good because HDL cholesterol helps remove other forms of cholesterol from the blood, taking them back to the liver where they’re removed from the blood and passed out of the body.
What Are Early Signs Of Fh
When you have FH, early detection of high cholesterol levels is key to getting the treatment that can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition to family history of early cardiovascular problems, you may also notice lumps forming under your skin.
These fatty deposits are called xanthomas, and are particularly noticeable around tendons in the hands, knees, Achilles tendons and elbows, and under the skin around your eyes. Sometimes an ophthalmologist may spot signs of cholesterol deposits in your eyes as well.
Whether or not you have obvious signs of high cholesterol, you should get checked if heart disease runs in your family. Talk to your family doctor about your concerns a simple blood test is all it takes to see if your cholesterol levels are in the healthy range. A high cholesterol level at a young age is a particular red flag that you may have FH. If your doctor suspects you have the condition, you can undergo genetic testing to confirm the diagnosis.
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What To Do When High Cholesterol Runs In Your Family
Because high cholesterol doesnt have any symptoms, its not something thats commonly on peoples radar. Even if it is, people often dont take it seriously until they have a heart attack or stroke. And while we tend to think of those events as happening to an older population, people under the age of 55 can also be affected, especially if they were born with high cholesterol.
This condition is called familial hypercholesterolemia . FH is an inherited disorder that makes it harder for your body to remove low-density lipoprotein cholesterol from your blood. The result? From childhood, cholesterol builds up along the walls of your arteries and veins, narrowing the passageways and drastically increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke at a very early age.
Natural Ways To Lower Your Cholesterol Levels
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Cholesterol is made in your liver and has many important functions. For example, it helps keep the walls of your cells flexible and is needed to make several hormones.
However, like anything in the body, too much cholesterol creates concerns.
Like fat, cholesterol does not dissolve in water. Instead, to move around the body, it depends on molecules called lipoproteins. These carry cholesterol, fat, and fat-soluble vitamins in your blood.
Different kinds of lipoproteins have different effects on health. For example, high levels of low-density lipoprotein results in cholesterol deposits in blood vessel walls, which can lead to (
- heart attack
- kidney failure
In contrast, high-density lipoprotein helps carry cholesterol away from vessel walls and helps prevent these conditions (
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How Often Should Cholesterol Be Checked
The American Heart Association recommends that all adults 20 or older have their cholesterol and other traditional risk factors checked every four to six years as long as their risk remains low. After age 40, your health care professional will also want to use an equation to calculate your 10-year risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
People with cardiovascular disease, and those at elevated risk, may need their cholesterol and other risk factors assessed more often.
Your doctor will explain what your cholesterol levels mean and can discuss treatment options if your numbers are not where they should be.
How Is High Cholesterol Diagnosed
You cant tell if you have high cholesterol without having it checked. A simple blood test will reveal your cholesterol level.
Men 35 years of age and older and women 45 years of age and older should have their cholesterol checked. Men and women 20 years of age and older who have risk factors for heart disease should have their cholesterol checked. Teens may need to be checked if they are taking certain medicines or have a strong family history of high cholesterol. Ask your doctor how often you should have your cholesterol checked.
Risk factors for heart disease include:
- Cigarette smoking.
- Having an immediate family member who has had heart disease.
- Being overweight or obese.
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Is Dietary Cholesterol Harmful
Research has shown that dietary cholesterol does not significantly impact cholesterol levels in your body, and data from population studies does not support an association between dietary cholesterol and heart disease in the general population .
Though dietary cholesterol can slightly impact cholesterol levels, this isnt an issue for most people.
In fact, two-thirds of the worlds population experience little or no increase in cholesterol levels after eating cholesterol-rich foods even in large amounts .
A small number of people are considered cholesterol non-compensators or hyper-responders and appear to be more vulnerable to high-cholesterol foods.
However, hyper-responders are thought to recycle extra cholesterol back to the liver for excretion .
Dietary cholesterol has also been shown to beneficially affect the LDL-to-HDL ratio, which is considered the best indicator of heart disease risk .
While research shows that its unnecessary for most people to avoid dietary cholesterol, keep in mind that not all cholesterol-containing foods are healthy.
Here are 7 healthy high-cholesterol foods and 4 to avoid.
Here are 7 high-cholesterol foods that are incredibly nutritious.
Ways You Can Lower Your Cholesterol Without Drugs
Often when people hear the word cholesterol, they think its something thats bad for you. In fact, though, your body needs cholesterol to produce hormones and vitamin D. The liver also uses cholesterol to make bile, which plays an important role in the processing and digestion of fats.
The problem with cholesterol is that if you have too much of it in your blood, it can combine with other substances to form plaque, which sticks to the walls of your arteries. A buildup of plaque can lead to coronary artery disease, in which your coronary arteries become narrow or blocked, possibly leading to heart attack, stroke, and in some cases, death.
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Problems Caused By High Cholesterol
Having high cholesterol levels, especially LDL levels, increases the risk of blood vessels becoming narrowed or blocked. This can lead to serious health conditions.
Diseases linked to high cholesterol include:
- Coronary heart disease causes blood vessels to narrow and obstruct blood flow to the heart which can lead to heart attack.
- Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked.
- Peripheral artery disease occurs when blood vessels outside the brain and heart narrow. This affects the blood supply to legs, feet and organs such as the kidney.
- High blood pressure occurs when blood vessels narrow, forcing the heart to pump harder to circulate blood through the body.
How Can I Keep Healthy Blood Cholesterol Levels
Talk to your doctor about your numbers. Your risk of disease depends on other factors, too, in combination with high cholesterol. To keep your cholesterol managed, you should do the following:
- Choose healthy foods. Limit foods that are high in saturated or trans fats, sugar, and sodium . Choose foods high in fiber, such as fresh fruits and veggies, and in unsaturated fats, such as avocados and nuts. Learn more about healthy eatingexternal icon.
- Stay physically active. You should get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as biking or brisk walking, every week.6Learn more about physical activityexternal icon.
- Dont smoke. Smoking damages the blood vessels and greatly increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. If you dont smoke, dont start. If you smoke, learn how to quit.
- Take medicine if necessary. A healthy diet and physical activity can help many people reach healthy cholesterol levels, but some people may need medicines to lower their cholesterol. Always take your medicine as prescribed.
Learn more about ways to prevent high cholesterol.
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What Are Some High Cholesterol Symptoms
Unfortunately, high cholesterol is a silent disease, which means it has no symptoms. The only way to know if you have high cholesterol is to get a blood test from a medical provider. The side effects of high cholesterol can be serious because it builds up in our arteries as plaque, which limits blood flow to vital organs. High cholesterol can lead to chest pain, stroke or heart attack if untreated.
What Do My Cholesterol Test Results Mean
Your doctor will tell you the results of the blood tests. The results are not interpreted on their own and are not used to diagnose a disease. Instead, they provide information on your overall health and your risk of heart attack and stroke. Sometimes high cholesterol levels can be an early warning to make lifestyle changes to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Your doctor will use other cardiovascular disease risk factors such as your age, sex, blood pressure and whether you smoke or have diabetes when deciding whether treatment is needed.
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Hdl Cholesterol Or Good Cholesterol
HDL cholesterol is sometimes called good cholesterol. It helps return LDL cholesterol to your liver to be removed from your body. This helps prevent cholesterol plaque from building up in your arteries.
When you have healthy levels of HDL cholesterol, it can help lower your risk of blood clots, heart disease, and stroke.
Can I Pass Fh To My Kids
If you inherited FH from one parent, theres a 50% chance youll pass it on to your children. If both of your parents passed the FH trait to you, your children will definitely have FH. Thats why its crucial to get children with a family history tested at an early age and begin cholesterol-reducing treatment for those with FH.
People with FH are usually not diagnosed until their 30s or 40s or later. Unfortunately, far too few are diagnosed as children. But early treatment can significantly impact a persons lifetime cardiovascular health by lowering their long-term exposure to high cholesterol levels, Martin advises. The treatment keeps their arteries healthier and prevents premature heart attacks and strokes.
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What Are Symptoms Of High Cholesterol
Unfortunately, one of the main problems of high cholesterol is that it does not cause any symptoms.
In most cases, it only causes emergency events like a heart attack or a stroke. It can go unnoticed until a health emergency occurs.
Emergency events like this only happen when high cholesterol forms plaque in your arteries. Cholesterol can build up and clog the arteries, making it harder for blood to pass through. If a blood clot forms and becomes trapped in the artery, it could result in a stroke or heart attack.
The best way to know if your cholesterol is too high is to have a lipoprotein panel done. Its important to get your cholesterol checked every couple of years after turning 20, especially if you have risk factors.
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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What Are The Complications Of High Cholesterol
High cholesterol can lead to plaques in your arteries and reduce blood flow, potentially leading to dangerous complications such as:
- Chest pain, since the arteries that supply your heart with blood can be affected.
- Increased risk of a heart attack
- Increased risk of a stroke
Since complications can be quite serious, its important to be tested regularly and talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns you may have.
Symptoms Of High Cholesterol
Often, there are no specific symptoms of high cholesterol. You could have high cholesterol and not know it.
If you have high cholesterol, your body may store the extra cholesterol in your arteries. These are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. A buildup of cholesterol in your arteries is known as plaque. Over time, plaque can become hard and make your arteries narrow. Large deposits of plaque can completely block an artery. Cholesterol plaques can also break apart, leading to formation of a blood clot that blocks the flow of blood.
A blocked artery to the heart can cause a heart attack. A blocked artery to your brain can cause a stroke.
Many people dont discover that they have high cholesterol until they suffer one of these life-threatening events. Some people find out through routine check-ups that include blood tests.
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Maintain A Healthy Weight
Even a small amount of extra weight can contribute to high cholesterol levels. Fortunately, if youre overweight, you dont have to lose it all shedding just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can cause a major reduction in cholesterol levels, according to the Obesity Action Coalition. You gain and lose weight based on whether youre eating more or fewer calories than you burn each day. Find out what your daily calorie needs are by using this handy food plan calculator from the U.S. Department of Agriculture .
Treatment For High Cholesterol
Lifestyle changes are one of the first things your doctor will recommend for managing high cholesterol. All medications can cause side effects, including medications to lower your cholesterol, and many people can successfully lower their cholesterol without them. Your doctor will determine which treatment approach is best for you.
Lifestyle changes that can help lower your cholesterol include:
- Adenosine triphosphate-citrate lyase inhibitors
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How Much Cholesterol Do We Need
Cholesterol is in every cell of your body. Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones and help your brain, skin, and other organs work the way they should. But too much cholesterol in the blood can clog the arteries that carry blood around your body.
Cholesterol that builds up in a person’s blood vessels over many years could lead to:
- a heart attack that can damage the heart
- a stroke that can damage the brain
Cholesterol can start to build up in childhood and teen years. Doctors can find out what your cholesterol level is by ordering a blood test.
Dietary Tips To Avoid Cholesterol
The most important thing you can do to reduce your cholesterol level is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You should try to:
- Increase the amount and variety of fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods you have each day.
- Choose low or reduced-fat milk, yoghurt and other dairy products or have added calcium soy drinks.
- Choose lean meat .
- Limit fatty meats, including sausages and salami, and choose leaner sandwich meats like turkey breast or cooked lean chicken.
- Have fish at least twice a week.
- Replace butter and dairy blends with polyunsaturated margarines.
- Include foods in your diet that are rich in soluble fibre and healthy fats, such as nuts, legumes and seeds.
- Limit cheese and ice cream to twice a week.
Other storage fats that are transported in blood lipoproteins include triglycerides. When present in high concentrations in the blood, this fat is also a risk for heart attack. Some foods will affect the cholesterol level or the triglyceride level and some will affect both.
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