What’s An Ideal Safe Level Of Cholesterol
The way you can measure blood cholesterol levels is using the unit millimoles per litre of blood .
Your levels of cholesterol should be:
- 5mmol/L or less for healthy adults
- 4mmol/L or less for those at high risk
When it comes to measuring LDLs, the levels should be:
- 3mmol/L or less for healthy adults
- 2mmol/L or less for those at high risk
What Is Cholesterol And How Does It Work
Cholesterol is a waxy substance your body relies on to:
- Maintain the structural integrity of your cells
- Produce hormones
- Make vitamin D
“Because of the many important roles it plays, cholesterol needs to travel throughout your body. It does so via your bloodstream, moving as part of larger molecules called lipoprotein particles,” says Dr. Septimus.
High cholesterol can be caused by having more lipoproteins in your bloodstream than your body needs, which, in turn, increases the chance of cholesterol accumulating and damaging the arteries.
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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Complications Of High Cholesterol
Since high cholesterol alone typically doesnt cause any symptoms, people only experience complications when their high cholesterol contributes to the development of severe heart disease, often in the form of heart attack or stroke. Over the long term, high cholesterol can cause plaque to form in your arteries, which can then narrow and lead to a cardiovascular emergency.
High Cholesterol Also Called Hypercholesterolaemia Is Characterised By Increased Levels Of Cholesterol In Your Blood Exceeding A Range Which Is Considered To Be Normal And Healthy Long
For this reason, itâs important that high cholesterol is well controlled and counteracted via lifestyle interventions, medication, or a combination of both. In this blog, we provide a comprehensive overview of high cholesterol and discuss treatments such as taking statins, nutrition, smoking cessation, exercise and more.
What causes high cholesterol?
There are two primary causes of high cholesterol: genetics and lifestyle. If you suffer from high cholesterol due to genetics this is called primary or familial hypercholesterolaemia. Most people, however, develop high cholesterol due to a combination of various lifestyle factors, such as an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking. In such situations, this type of high cholesterol is known as acquired hypercholesterolaemia.
What is considered to be high cholesterol?
To understand what high cholesterol is, we must first look at the two different types of cholesterol and their effects on the heart. Total cholesterol is a term which describes the overall levels of cholesterol in your blood. This is comprised of HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol â âgoodâ and respectively âbad cholesterolâ. Normal to high levels of HDL cholesterol are thought to have a positive influence on the heart and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. By contrast, high levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with a higher risk of developing heart conditions.
Improving your diet
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What Other Medications Treat High Cholesterol
Bile acid sequestrants: These drugs bind with cholesterol-containing bile acids in the intestines and allow them to be eliminated in the stool. Bile acid sequestrants may lower LDL cholesterol by a significant amount. Bile acid sequestrants are sometimes prescribed with a statin to enhance cholesterol reduction.
- Cholestyramine , colestipol , and colesevelam are the three bile acid sequestrants currently available. These three drugs are available as powders or tablets and are not absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract.
- Bile acid sequestrant powders must be mixed with water or fruit juice and are taken once or twice daily with meals. Tablets must be taken with large amounts of fluids to avoid stomach and intestinal complaints including constipation, bloating, nausea, and gas.
Cholesterol absorption inhibitors: These drugs inhibit cholesterol absorption in the gut and has few, if any, side effects. Cholesterol absorption inhibitors may be rarely associated with tongue swelling . Ezetimibe reduces LDL cholesterol by a significant amount. It is probably most useful in people who cannot tolerate taking statins. When used in addition to a statin, ezetimibe is equivalent to doubling or tripling the statin dose.
Nicotinic acid or niacin: Nicotinic acid lowers total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels while raising HDL cholesterol levels.
Fibrates: These cholesterol-lowering drugs are effective in lowering triglycerides.
Whole Milk: 488 Mg 16% Dv
Whole milk is rich in cholesterol and saturated fat, providing 16 percent of the DV for cholesterol and 46 percent of the saturated fat DV per 16-ounce serving.
Whole milk can increase HDL more than skim milk, according to a February 2018 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study also found that whole and skim milk had similar effects on LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, even though whole milk has more cholesterol and saturated fat.
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How To Lower Cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to help lower it. For instance, they may recommend changes to your diet, exercise habits, or other aspects of your daily routine. If you smoke, they will likely advise you to quit.
Your doctor may also prescribe medications or other treatments to help lower your cholesterol levels. In some cases, they may refer you to a specialist for more care.
What Is Normal Cholesterol
Cholesterol is the fatty substance that is carried in the blood by proteins.
Its made by the liver but found in certain foods, and high levels can increase your risk of serious health problems.
When cholesterol combines with protein to be carried in the blood, it is known as a lipoprotein.
There are two types of lipoprotein high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein .
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What Can Affect My Ldl Level
Things that can affect your LDL level include:
- Diet. Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat make your blood cholesterol level rise
- Weight. Being overweight tends to raise your LDL level, lower your HDL level, and increase your total cholesterol level
- Physical Activity. A lack of physical activity can lead to weight gain, which can raise your LDL level
- Smoking.Cigarette smoking lowers your HDL cholesterol. Since HDL helps to remove LDL from your arteries, if you have less HDL, that can contribute to you having a higher LDL level.
- Age and Sex. As women and men get older, their cholesterol levels rise. Before the age of menopause, women have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After the age of menopause, women’s LDL levels tend to rise.
- Genetics. Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High cholesterol can run in families. For example, familial hypercholesterolemia is an inherited form of high blood cholesterol.
- Medicines. Certain medicines, including steroids, some blood pressure medicines, and HIV/AIDS medicines, can raise your LDL level.
- Other medical conditions. Diseases such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS can cause a higher LDL level.
- Race. Certain races may have an increased risk of high blood cholesterol. For example, African Americans typically have higher HDL and LDL cholesterol levels than whites.
What Has The Biggest Impact On Ldl Cholesterol
Contrary to the long-held belief that dietary cholesterol itself is a major cause of high LDL, evidence suggests a weaker link. It’s still a good idea to steer clear of dietary cholesterol, but that intake isn’t the biggest influence. The current understanding is that the specific mix of carbohydrates and fats in your diet is the biggest factor in determining your LDL levels.
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Are There Any Treatments For High Cholesterol Levels Caused By Genetics
Usually, the first line of treatment for high cholesterol is lifestyle modification, but if you have FH youll need more advanced treatment. Its always important to eat a low-fat diet, exercise and control your weight. Having a healthy lifestyle is crucial for heart health and for overall health, says Martin. However, people with FH could eat an extremely low-fat diet and still not be able to control their cholesterol because theyre genetically unable to handle it. For them, cholesterol is going to build up in the bloodstream regardless of what they eat.
Fortunately, there are medications that can substantially lower LDL cholesterol levels. The most common treatment for FH is statin drug therapy. Statin drugs work by blocking an enzyme that produces cholesterol in the liver and increases your bodys ability to remove cholesterol from the blood. They can lower your LDL cholesterol levels by 50 percent or more. Statins have been safely used to reduce the risk of heart disease for 30 years and continue to be the number one option when it comes to helping people with FH.
Other treatment options include medications that block cholesterol from being absorbed from your intestines into your bloodstream, or drugs that block an enzyme called PCSK9, which reduces the amount of LDL cholesterol in your blood.
Increase Your Physical Activity
Physical activity increases levels of HDL cholesterol the good cholesterol that removes LDL cholesterol from the blood. Vigorous aerobic exercise is best.
If you havent been exercising much lately, gradually build up to the recommended amount of physical activity:
- People aged 18-64 years should do 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week.
- People aged 65 years and over should aim for a total of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days .
Moderate-intensity exercise is a level that increases your heart rate and breathing but allows you to keep talking. Vigorous intensity exercise makes your heart rate higher and makes you breathe more heavily.
Resistance training and muscle-toning exercises can increase HDL cholesterol. Aim to do this twice a week.
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Diet Rich In Saturated Fats And Trans Fats: Most Common Cause
An unhealthy diet is the most common cause of having high cholesterol readings. Foods that contain saturated fats and trans fat are the main culprits.
Trans fat foods not only raise your LDL but also lower your HDL, the good cholesterol. That makes it the worst food you can eat vis-à-vis cholesterol.
Saturated fats are found in :
- Dairy foods such as butter, cheese, sour cream, ghee, full-fat milk and ice cream
- Red Meat such as fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb organ meat, processed meats like salami and sausages and the skin on chicken
- Certain cooking oils like palm oil
- Seafood like prawns and lobster
Trans fats are found in :
- Cakes, pies, and cookies
- Packed wafers
The American Heart Association recommends that you replace foods containing saturated fats and trans fats with foods that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
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.
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Diets High In Calories Carbs And Fats
Triglyceride levels increase with a positive energy-intake balance . In other words, when you eat more than your body needs, the surplus is transformed into fat, including triglycerides. Its easier to overeat when your diet is high in calories and contains lots of carbs and saturated fats .
Low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets are among the most common causes of high triglycerides. But wait we said that high-fat diets are bad, so doesnt that mean a low-fat diet should be beneficial? Not quite .
Saturated, unhealthy fats are bad. But your body needs healthy fats such as those found in olive oil and fish oil to keep your triglyceride levels normal and to maintain your overall health. If you dont get enough dietary fats, your body will revert to transforming the sugars you consume into fats .
This goes against the popular but unfounded belief that your body wont store fat as long as you dont eat fats. In truth, high-carbohydrate diets can be much worse than high-fat diets for your triglyceride levels. Many scientists advocate that high-carb, low-fat diets likely also contributed to the obesity epidemic in America over the past few decades .
Getting Your Cholesterol Levels Checked
If youre age 20 years or older, the American Heart Association recommends getting your cholesterol levels checked at least once every four to six years. If you have a history of high cholesterol or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, your doctor may encourage you get your cholesterol levels tested more often.
Your doctor can use a lipid panel to measure your total cholesterol level, as well your LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Your total cholesterol level is the overall amount of cholesterol in your blood. It includes LDL and HDL cholesterol.
If your levels of total cholesterol or LDL cholesterol are too high, your doctor will diagnose you with high cholesterol. High cholesterol is especially dangerous when your LDL levels are too high and your HDL levels are too low. Find out more about your recommended cholesterol levels.
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How Can I Lower My Cholesterol Level
The first step in reducing your cholesterol is to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. It’s important to keep your diet low in fatty food.
You can swap food containing saturated fat for fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals. This will also help prevent high cholesterol returning.
If these measures don’t reduce your cholesterol and you continue to have a high risk of developing heart disease, your GP may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication, such as statins.
Your GP will take into account the risk of any side effects from statins. The benefit of lowering your cholesterol must outweigh any risks.
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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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Medications To Treat High Cholesterol
For most people who need medication to manage high cholesterol, doctors will prescribe statins. Statins, also known as HMG CoA reductase inhibitors, are a class of drugs that prevent cholesterol from forming in the liver, where both LDL and HDL cholesterol are made. This lowers the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood. They are most effective at lowering LDL cholesterol but can also lower triglycerides and HDL cholesterol.
If you have certain conditions, or if statins arent working to decrease your high cholesterol sufficiently, your doctor may prescribe one of these other cholesterol-lowering medications:
- PCSK9 Inhibitors A newer type of medicine, PCSK9 inhibitors bind to and inactivate a protein on certain liver cells, which then lowers LDL cholesterol. Administered by injection, they are often used in patients with high cholesterol that doesnt respond to statins or people with familial hypercholesterolemia.
- Selective Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors The most commonly used nonstatin agent, according to the AHA, selective cholesterol absorption inhibitors prevent cholesterol from being absorbed in the intestine. This means less cholesterol is delivered to the liver and, ultimately, the blood.
- Bile Acid Sequestrants Also known as bile-acid-binding agents, these drugs work by removing bile acids from the liver. Since LDL cholesterol is needed to make bile acids, the body then breaks down more LDL cholesterol particles.
Maintain A Normal Weight
Having a BMI in the overweight or obese range highly correlates with having excess body fat, which in turn can affect how your body processes cholesterol. Excess body fat also slows down the ability to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood, raising your levels and increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
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