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 To Lower Cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, medications or both.
Here are some ways to manage your cholesterol.
Eat heart-healthy food
What you eat can make a big difference to your cholesterol levels.
Cut back on foods high in saturated fats like:
- oily fish.
Drink less alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol can increase your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. So drinking less is a good way to lower your cholesterol.
The Ministry of Health recommends no more than 10 standard drinks per week for women and no more than 15 for men. One standard drink is equal to:
- a standard can of 4% beer
- a small glass of wine
- a small single shot of spirits
If you have high cholesterol or you’ve been diagnosed with a heart condition, you may need to drink less than this.
Smoking makes your LDL cholesterol stickier and reduces the amount of HDL cholesterol in your blood. It also damages the artery walls. This increases the build-up of plaque in your arteries and can cause risk of heart attack and stroke.
Quitting smoking is a great way to lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Sitting less and being more active are great ways to reduce high cholesterol.
This doesnt mean you have to join a gym or take up running it just means you need to move your body more throughout the day. Ideally you should do 30 minutes of activity a day.
You could try:
Read more about the benefits of exercise.
Cholesterol And Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction is when a man canât achieve or maintain an erection during sex. Over the long term, high cholesterol seems to trigger a narrowing of the smaller blood vessels of the penis when they should be stretching to allow more blood for an erection . In addition, when you have too much LDL cholesterol, it can build up in arteries and then join with other substances to form plaque that hardens and narrows further blood vessels . The result can be less blood flow to both the heart and the penis, which can lead to erectile dysfunction.
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Why Are People With High Cholesterol More Likely To Get Covid
High cholesterol is an independent risk factor for heart health. COVID-19 infection heightens the possibility of having a heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol levels have also been associated with increased coagulopathies in those with COVID-19. As such, BMI and LDL cholesterol have become important metrics alongside other known characteristics such as age and ethnicity in the risk assessment of vulnerability to COVID-19 infection.
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So Are Statins Worth It
It depends on who you are, what your cardiovascular risk is, and the possible benefits.
At a population level, this is something known as the number needed to treat . Or, to put it another way, how many people have to take statins to prevent one heart attack?
For people with a low risk for cardiovascular disease, 217 people would have to take a statin to prevent one non-fatal heart attack. So 217 is the NNT. But when you look at people with a high risk for cardiovascular disease, only 39 people have to take a statin to prevent one non-fatal heart attack. So the NNT for high-risk people is much lower than for low-risk people.
The higher your risk of cardiovascular disease, the more the benefits of statins outweigh the risks of side effects.
The professional guidelines and the online risk estimator go a long way toward identifying people who should take a statin. But each person is unique. The information here should be a starting point for discussion rather than a final answer. Talk with your healthcare provider to make a decision on whether you should take a statin.
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How Can I Lower My Cholesterol Naturally
For many people, revamping everyday habits can go a long way toward lowering cholesterol without medication. There are a number of lifestyle changes that can be made, and they fall under the categories of diet and exercise, says Dr. Khandwalla.
Eating heart-healthy foods is a great place to start. This means reducing your intake of red meat and full-fat dairy products, both of which contain saturated fats that raise cholesterol. Instead, focus on eating lean proteins chicken, turkey, seafood and adding more soluble fiber to your diet from fruits, vegetables, and oatmeal, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute . Getting aerobic exercise most days of the week can also help lower cholesterol.
How Is High Cholesterol Treated
The main goals in treating high cholesterol are to lower your LDL levels and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. To lower cholesterol, eat a heart-healthy diet, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight. Some may also need to take cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Doctors determine your “goals” for lowering LDL based on the number of risk factors you have for heart disease.Ã Based on your risk, your doctor will determine the intensity of LDL reduction you need, and prescribe a medication accordingly.
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Stopping Statins: Eight Reasons You Should Not Stop Your Cholesterol Drug
Lifelong treatment with a medication is a tall order for some peopleso it isnt all that surprising that discontinuation rates are high for some of the most popular cholesterol medications, the statin drugs.
Why is this a problem? If youre on a drug to lower your cholesterol, you will need to keep taking your prescription or your cholesterol will go back up. Statins in particular can help lower cholesterol up to 60%, but their effects will go away a couple of months after you stop taking them.
Despite their benefits, statins are often discontinued. Serious side effects like rhabdomyolysis and liver test abnormalities are very rare, but many patients know that statins have been reported to cause muscle pain. Because everyone has muscle pain or joint pain from time to time, blaming the medication is a natural tendency.
Unless youve had a serious side effect, here are the reasons you should not stop your statin:
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Cholesterol Function Types& Dangers
Most healthy people manufacture adequate amounts of cholesterol, a waxy substance that is found in the cells of the body and important in a number of bodily functions. Cholesterol aids in digestion, synthesizing fat-soluble vitamins, and the production of certain hormones and other substances. Cholesterol moves through the bloodstream in lipoproteins, which are packages of fatty material covered by protein.
The National Institute of Health identifies two major types of cholesterol:
- Low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol: is absorbed from certain foods, such as red meat, dairy products, and other fatty foods, and also manufactured in the body. LDLs interact and combine with other substances that eventually create issues in the arteries and veins, such as blockages or narrowing due to accumulation of fatty material.
- High-density lipoprotein or good cholesterol: is also manufactured in the body and can aid in the removal of LDLs from the bloodstream. It is also important in a number of other processes.
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What Causes High Cholesterol
Several things can cause high cholesterol including:
- Eating a diet high in saturated and trans fats
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
- Smoking tobacco
- Being overweight or obese
Having a relative with high cholesterol can also increase your risk of having high cholesterol. Known as familial hypercholesterolemia, this is a genetic condition that changes how your body processes cholesterol.
High cholesterol doesnt cause high blood pressure or diabetes. However, these two conditions do put you at an increased risk for heart disease and stroke, says Dr. Adeyemi. Heart disease and stroke are also caused by high cholesterol.
How Can Medications Help Cholesterol Levels
Lifestyle changes can make a difference in cholesterol levels, but many people need medications to bring cholesterol completely under control. Drugs are especially important if you have other risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, or if you already have heart trouble.
The most effective cholesterol medications available today belong to a group of drugs called statins. These drugs can dramatically lower cholesterol levels and have few side effects, although some patients complain of constipation, stomach pains, and cramps. In rare cases, a patient may develop significant muscle pain and weakness. A recent study of heart patients found that one statin drug cut the relative risk of heart attacks by more than 60 percent.
HealthDay News contributed information to this article.
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How Can You Lower Cholesterol Levels
Luckily, there are some things you can do to lower your health risks of high cholesterol.
- Diet changes: Theres more to cholesterol than whats in your food. Components of a healthy diet, especially fiber, can have modest effects on cholesterol levels, explains Dr. Gaesser. Fiber such as oatmeal or bran reduces the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream and can reduce LDL levels.
- Exercise: While it wont really make big improvements to your total cholesterol, according to Dr. Gaesser, it can help raise your HDL and lower your LDL.
- Lose weight: Even a 5% to 10% weight loss can have positive effects on high cholesterol.
- Consider quitting smoking: Quitting smoking can raise your HDL and decrease the risk for other heart conditions.
- Statin medications: Sometimes diet and exercise arent enough to make the necessary changes. In that case, medications called statins help decrease your cholesterol as well as lower your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.
The takeaway: Use of statins will not work effectively if your lifestyle is poor, Dr. Adeyemi cautions. Statins and lifestyle changes often need to be done together to have the best results.
Medication And Natural Treatments
The first line of treatment for many people is eating a better diet and getting more exercise. But some people might need additional help to get their cholesterol levels down. This can come in the form of medications and supplements.
People should work with their health care providers to develop a plan that is right for them.
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What Other Information Should I Know
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor may order certain lab tests during your treatment , especially if you develop symptoms of liver damage.
Before having any laboratory test, tell your doctor and the laboratory personnel that you are taking atorvastatin.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.
Lipid Panel Tests To Screen For High Blood Cholesterol
A lipid panel usually measures total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol. Your test results may also show the level of non-HDL cholesterol, which includes all fats that raise your risk of heart and blood vessels diseases. It may also include a test for triglycerides.
Ask your doctor if you need to fast before a lipid panel. This means you do not eat or drink anything except water for 9 to 12 hours before your visit. Ask your doctor about taking your medicines before the test.
How often you get a lipid panel done depends on your age, risk factors, and family history of high blood cholesterol or cardiovascular diseases, such as atherosclerosis, heart attack or stroke. Here is a general guide:
- Age 19 or younger. Screening begins at ages 9 to 11 and should be repeated every 5 years. Screening may be performed as early as age 2 if there is a family history of high blood cholesterol, heart attack, or stroke.
- Age 20 to 65. Younger adults should be screened every 5 years. Men ages 45 to 65 and women ages 55 to 65 should be screened every 1 to 2 years.
- Older than 65. Older adults should be screened every year.
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Ways To Prevent High Cholesterol
You can prevent high cholesterol the same way you can help lower itby living a healthy lifestyle focused on a heart-healthy diet and exercise. Other strategies that can help prevent high cholesterol include:
- Quitting smoking
- Getting enough good quality sleep
- Limit alcohol intake
However, if you have familial hypercholesterolemia, you may not be able to prevent it. You can work with your doctor to detect it early and manage it to prevent complications.
What Is Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the blood and in cells throughout the body. Your body manufactures 75 percent of its cholesterol, and the rest enters the body through the food you eat.
Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream packaged in bundles called lipoproteins.
There are two main types of cholesterol:
Low-density lipoprotein is the “bad,” unhealthy cholesterol. It can slowly build up in arteries with calcium and inflammatory cells and create fatty deposits called plaques. LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
High-density lipoprotein is the “good” kind of cholesterol. It carries excess cholesterol away from the arteries to the liver. HDL cholesterol protects against heart attack and stroke.
Generally the lower the LDL and the higher the HDL, the lower your risk of heart disease.
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How To Test Levels
In order to test for cholesterol levels, health care providers order blood tests. All adults 20 or older should have their cholesterol checked every four to six years, according to the American Heart Association.
In addition to a primary health care providers office, people may opt to get their levels checked at public screenings.
Safe Blood Cholesterol Levels
Health authorities recommend that cholesterol levels should be no higher than 5.5 mmol per litre if there are no other risk factors present. If there are other cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking and high blood pressure or pre-existing cardiovascular disease, then the aim for the LDL levels would be less than 2 mmol/l. Approximately half of all adult Australians have a blood cholesterol level above 5 mmol/l. This makes high blood cholesterol a major health concern in Australia.
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Can High Cholesterol Make Me Tired
No, high cholesterol doesnt usually cause fatigue, but it can lead to heart diseases, such as coronary artery disease, that do. With this heart condition, excess LDL builds up as plaque in your hearts small arteries, causing them to narrow and stiffen. This reduces blood flow, which can make you feel tired or short of breath and cause chest pain, notes the NHLBI.
If youre taking a statin to treat high cholesterol, possible side effects could come with fatigue, such as memory loss, forgetfulness, and confusion, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However these are very rare. Mayo Clinic describes this as mental fuzziness. Be sure to discuss any similar symptoms with your doctor.
What Constitutes A High Cholesterol Level
Doctors use several numbers when determining the status of your cholesterol. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, these are the current guidelines:
|less than 200 milligrams per deciliter|
Low-density lipoprotein , or bad cholesterol the type of cholesterol that builds up in arteries:
High-density liproprotein , or good cholesterol the type that helps remove cholesterol from arteries:
|40 mg/dL or lower|
As to what causes high cholesterol, a number of factors may be involved. Diet, weight, and physical activity can affect cholesterol levels, but so can genes, age, and gender.
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Will High Cholesterol Make Me Feel Bad
No. For most people, high cholesterol has no symptoms at all, according to the AHA. But when it causes plaque buildup in larger arteries in your heart, coronary artery disease can result, which can involve angina , chest pain, arrhythmia , and shortness of breath that can leave you low on energy, notes the NHLBI.
Coronary artery disease is the most common heart disease, but many people have no idea they have it until they suffer a heart attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . For them, a heart attack is the first sign that theyd been living with high cholesterol.
The AHAadvises having your cholesterol checked every four to six years or more frequently, if youre at risk starting at age 20. If your numbers are too high, you can take steps to lower your risk for both heart disease and stroke. Besides following a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, take medications as instructed if your doctor prescribes them.