Why Is Cholesterol Needed By The Body
With all of the bad publicity cholesterol gets, people are often surprised to learn that its actually necessary for our existence.
Whats also surprising is that our bodies produce cholesterol naturally. But cholesterol isnt all good, nor is it all bad its a complex topic and one worth knowing more about.
How Does High Cholesterol Contribute To Heart Disease In Women
Having a high level of cholesterol is known as hypercholesterolemia, or dyslipidemia.
People who have an LDL cholesterol level thats higher than normal and an HDL cholesterol level thats too low may be at a higher risk of heart disease.
If you have too much LDL cholesterol in your blood, it can accumulate inside the walls of blood vessels.
HDL cholesterol helps remove cholesterol from your bloodstream. But if HDL levels are too low, there wont be enough of it to help remove the buildup of LDL cholesterol from your blood vessels.
Over time, the buildup of LDL within your blood vessels can turn into a substance known as plaque. Plaque can narrow and harden your arteries and limit blood flow. This is called atherosclerosis and is considered one type of heart disease.
In general, higher cholesterol levels particularly LDL levels means you have a higher chance of having a heart attack or stroke during the course of your lifetime.
Women generally have higher levels of HDL cholesterol than men, due to a female sex hormone known as estrogen.
According to the National Institutes of Health , research also suggests that cholesterol levels in women vary depending on the phase of the menstrual cycle, due to changes in estrogen levels.
As estrogen levels rise, HDL cholesterol also rises, peaking at the time of ovulation. On the other hand, LDL and total cholesterol levels decline as estrogen levels rise, reaching a low just before menstruation.
S To Lower Cholesterol And Risks Of Related Diseases
A few simple changes can lower your cholesterol and cut your risk for conditions linked to high cholesterol.
Read Also: Does Tuna Help Lower Cholesterol
Why Is Cholesterol Important To Our Bodies
Every cell in the body needs cholesterol, which helps the cell membranes form the layers. These layers protect the contents of the cell by acting as the gatekeeper to what things can enter or leave the cell. It is made by the liver and is also used by the liver to make bile, which helps you digest foods. Cholesterol is also needed to make certain hormones and to produce vitamin D. Your liver makes enough cholesterol to meet your bodys needs for these important functions.
Dont Miss: Is Shrimp Bad For Your Cholesterol
The Common Good And Bad Cholesterol Levels Myth Is Not True
We have all heard over the course of the last several decades that ones cholesterol level predicts their risk of heart attack and stroke. Patients frequently ask me, How could I have heart disease my cholesterol level is normal? or report to me, I dont have to worry because my good cholesterol is high. As a cardiologist, I have both bad and good news: Your cholesterol level does not matter!
As you likely already know, cholesterol is a type of fat found within all cells and is free floating in blood on molecules called lipoproteins. The two most common of these lipoproteins containing cholesterol are low-density lipoprotein which carries cholesterol to the tissues , and high-density lipoprotein which carries cholesterol to the liver to be flushed from the body .
Cholesterol carried by LDL can invade the walls of blood vessels and lead to inflammation within the walls of these blood vessels. Cholesterol in this way forms the main constituent of plaque which builds up within the walls of blood vessels, in particular within the walls of arteries which carry oxygen-containing blood to the organs such as your heart and brain. This plaque can increase in size to eventually lead to a clogged artery, or the plaque can rupture which causes the blood near the ruptured plaque to clot. In the heart, these situations lead to chest pain , shortness of breath, or a heart attack. In the head and neck, clogging or obstruction of an artery leads to stroke.
Don’t Miss: Is Ahi Tuna High In Cholesterol
Things You Can’t Control Like Your Age
While some risk factors of high cholesterol are avoidable, a few aren’t. Namely, increasing age.
“As you age, you lose lean muscle mass. This leads to you becoming naturally more insulin resistant, which increases plaque instability and worsens your lipoprotein particle number, which increases cholesterol deposition in your blood vessels,” warns Dr. Septimus.
Additionally, high cholesterol can be caused by a rare genetic disorder called familial hypercholesterolemia. It can also develop as a complication of other health conditions, particularly type 2 diabetes.
“If you have one or more of these risk factors, it doesn’t mean you will develop high cholesterol, but it does mean you’ll need to be sure you’re adopting and maintaining the healthy lifestyle behaviors that reduce your risk,” adds Dr. Septimus.
The healthy lifestyle behaviors that can help you avoid high cholesterol and its consequences include:
- Avoiding processed/packaged foods and eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruit
- Exercising regularly
- Taking steps to avoid other health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity
- Losing weight, if you’re overweight
- Stopping smoking, if you smoke
Myth: Eating Foods With A Lot Of Cholesterol Will Not Make My Cholesterol Levels Go Up
Fact: It can be complicated. We know that foods with a lot of cholesterol usually also have a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fats can make your cholesterol numbers higher, so its best to choose foods that are lower in saturated fats. Foods made from animals, including red meat, butter, and cheese, have a lot of saturated fats.
Instead, aim to eat foods with plenty of fiber, such as oatmeal and beans, and healthy unsaturated fats, such as avocados, olive oil, and nuts. Learn more about healthy diets and nutrition at CDCs nutrition, physical activity, and obesity website.
Talk with your health care provider about ways to manage your cholesterol. Learn more about medicines to lower cholesterol.
Read Also: Cholesterol In Shrimps Good Or Bad
Top Misconceptions About High Cholesterol
This post is available in: Spanish
Did you know that slender people can have high cholesterol? Or that getting older even if youre physically fit can cause LDL, or the bad cholesterol, to rise?
There are plenty of misconceptions about cholesterol, and that can make some adults candidates for life-altering events, such as a heart attack or a stroke.
Cholesterol circulates in the blood and can mix with other substances to form a thick, hard deposit on the inside of the arteries. This can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible a condition known as atherosclerosis.
If a blood clot forms and blocks one of these narrowed arteries, a heart attack or stroke can result. This is why high cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease.
Nearly one of every three U.S. adults have high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol , which is considered the bad cholesterol because it contributes to fatty plaque buildups and narrowing of the arteries. About 94.6 million, or 40 percent, of U.S. adults have total cholesterol of 200 mg/dL or higher. LDL-C levels of 100 mg/dL or lower are linked to lower rates of heart disease and stroke.
High cholesterol is one of the major controllable, or modifiable, risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. If you have other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure or diabetes, your risk increases even more.
Cholesterol Buildup In Your Eyes
When your body has too much cholesterol it can show up anywhere with arteries passing through. Your eyes are full of tiny blood vessels where high cholesterol can show up. You may notice a fatty skin deposit in your cornea or yellow fat deposits around your eyelids. Xanthomas are not reserved to your eyes, they may also appear on your elbows, knees or ankles, as well as other parts of your skin.
Also Check: Does Shrimp Give You High Cholesterol
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.
Tingles In Your Hands And Feet
A sort of tingling sensation in your hands and your feet definitely isnt uncommon if youre dealing with too high cholesterol levels. Because of blocked blood vessels, the peripheral nerves in your feet and hands are also affected as theyre not getting enough oxygen and blood flow. This usually doesnt result in pain, but can induce a rather noticeable tingling sensation instead.
You May Like: Do Egg Beaters Have Cholesterol
The Problem With Vegetable Oil
The vegetable oil you buy in the supermarket to cook with has usually been through a number of processes that have damaged the beneficial fats once present in the oils, and produced some toxic substances. Most oils come from seeds, nuts or fruit.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated vegetable oils are quite delicate and unstable. This means that they are easily damaged and go rancid quickly. This can make them quite harmful to our health. Currently most vegetable oils are extracted in factories through the use of heat and chemical solvents. They are exposed to light and oxygen during processing, which negatively affect the oil.
If you cook with these kinds of processed vegetable oils and heat them to high temperatures, you are further destroying them and adding to the quantity of trans fatty acids they already contain. If you eat a lot of damaged, oxidized oils, they will cause your LDL cholesterol molecules to be oxidized. This kind of cholesterol is more likely to accumulate in artery walls and block them. The inflammation generated in your body also raises cholesterol production.
Why Should I Lower My Cholesterol
Evidence strongly indicates that high cholesterol can increase the risk of:
- narrowing of the arteries
- transient ischaemic attack often known as a “mini stroke”
- peripheral arterial disease
This is because cholesterol can build up in the artery wall, restricting the blood flow to your heart, brain and the rest of your body. It also increases the risk of a blood clot developing somewhere in your body.
Your risk of developing coronary heart disease also rises as your blood’s cholesterol level increases. This can cause pain in your chest or arm during stress or physical activity .
Recommended Reading: Mussels And Cholesterol
Your Test Results: A Preview
Your test results will show your cholesterol levels in milligrams per deciliter of blood . Your total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol are among numerous factors your doctor can use to predict your lifetime or 10-year risk for a heart attack or stroke. Your doctor will also consider other risk factors, such as age, family history, smoking status, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Lipid profile or lipid panel is a blood test that will give you results for your HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and total blood cholesterol.
What Can I Do To Prevent These Problems
High cholesterol doesnt have any symptoms, but its easily detected with a routine blood test. While it can lead to very serious health problems, there are several ways you can improve your cholesterol levels and lower your risk of complications.
Maintain a healthy diet. That means eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of highly processed carbohydrates, and low-fat dairy products instead of high-fat dairy products. Stick to lean sources of protein, eat nuts and beans for snacks, and lower your intake of red meat, sugar, sodium, saturated fats, and trans fats.
Stay physically active and try to spend less time sitting. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity every week, such as walking briskly, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity every week, such as jogging. You can also do some combination of the two. Start slowly and build up gradually towards the target levels.
Consider medication.Statins, such as and , are medications that lower your cholesterol levels. Statins can also lower your risk for heart attack and stroke if youre already at high risk due to diabetes or other conditions. is another medication that lowers cholesterol. The medication reduces cardiovascular risk in people who are already at high risk, and it may be appropriate for people who cant take statins or who need more intense treatment in combination with statins.
Read Also: Cholesterol In Tuna
What Can Happen If Your Arteries Become Clogged Up
If your arteries become clogged up with blood fats, your blood can’t flow around your body easily. This can lead to a number of diseases of the heart and blood vessels.
These diseases are known together as cardiovascular disease cardio refers to the heart, and vascular refers to the blood vessels.
Coronary heart disease
This is where the arteries have become clogged up and stiff with atherosclerosis. The blood cant flow around the body and back to the heart easily, and blood clots can form. This can lead to chest pain, heart failure, heart attacks and strokes.
This is a dull, heavy or tight pain in the chest which can spread to the left arm, neck, jaw or back. It happens when the arteries leading to the heart have become narrowed and the heart doesnt get enough oxygen. The pain can be brought on by exercise or activity, as the heart needs more oxygen during physical activity.
A heart attack
This is a medical emergency. It happens when an artery leading to the heart becomes completely blocked, often by a blood clot, cutting off the blood supply. Part of the heart muscle quickly dies, but if its treated very early the blockage can be removed.If you think you or someone you are with is having a heart attack, call 999 straight away. The signs of a heart attack include:
- a crushing pain in the chest
- feeling weak or faint
Find out about coronavirus if you have heart disease
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.
You May Like: Cholesterol In Mussels
Can High Cholesterol Be Prevented Or Avoided
Making healthy food choices and exercising are two ways to reduce your risk of developing high cholesterol.
Eat fewer foods with saturated fats . Choose healthier fats. This includes lean meats, avocados, nuts, and low-fat dairy items. Avoid foods that contain trans fat . Look for foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These foods include salmon, herring, walnuts, and almonds. Some egg brands contain omega-3.
Exercise can be simple. Go for a walk. Take a yoga class. Ride your bike to work. You could even participate in a team sport. Aim to get 30 minutes of activity every day.
Signs And Symptoms Of High Cholesterol
Typically, high cholesterol doesnt cause any symptoms until it causes a medical emergency, like a heart attack or stroke. These heart-disease-related events dont occur until high cholesterol levels have led to fatty plaque building up in the arteries. In turn, this leads to a narrowing of the arteries and a change in the makeup of the arterial lining, also known as heart disease.