What Causes High Cholesterol
Your liver produces cholesterol, but you also get cholesterol from food. Eating too many foods that are high in fat can increase your cholesterol level.
Being overweight and inactive also causes high cholesterol. If you are overweight, you most likely have a higher level of triglycerides. If you never exercise and arent active in general, it can lower your HDL .
You family history also affects your cholesterol level. Research has shown that high cholesterol tends to run in families. If you have an immediate family member who has it, you could have it, too.
Smoking also causes high cholesterol. It lowers your HDL .
What Treatments Are Available For High Cholesterol
Treatment may include:
Addressing risk factors. Some risk factors that can be changed include lack of exercise and poor eating habits.
Cholesterol-lowering medicines. Medicines are used to lower fats in the blood, particularly LDL cholesterol. Statins are a group of medicines that can do this. The two most effective types are atorvastatin and rosuvastatin. Other medicines that lower cholesterol levels are ezetimibe and PCSK9 inhibitors.
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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Health Problems That Raise Cholesterol Levels
While genes or an unhealthy diet are often the causes of high cholesterol, many health conditions can also be culprits.
More than 73 million American adults have high cholesterol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , but no two cases of high cholesterol are exactly alike.
Many people have high cholesterol because of physical inactivity or a diet too high in saturated fats, or because it runs in the family. But having other health conditions can also cause high cholesterol levels, especially conditions that affect your metabolism, such as diabetes or hypothyroidism .
How Can I Lower My Cholesterol By Making Lifestyle Changes
You can lower your cholesterol levels by making lifestyle changes, and through taking medicines if that’s what your doctor advises. Some people will only need to improve their lifestyle and diet to get their cholesterol to a safe level. Others may need to take cholesterol-lowering medicines, as well.
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Which Foods Increase Ldl Cholesterol Levels
Your diet plays a massive role in determining your cholesterol levels. Foods high in trans fats, saturated fats, and salts can be especially dangerous. These include:
- Red meats
- Donuts, cookies, crackers, and other baked goods
- Fast foods
- Chicken with the skin on
- Cured or processed meats
Many food items you find in the store may have trans and saturated fats and high sodium, so make sure to carefully read the nutrition information before buying.
Nutrition And Dietary Supplements
In addition to eating a healthy diet, low in saturated fat, with plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, some specific foods and supplements may help lower cholesterol.
Fiber: Several studies show that soluble fiber lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Fiber can also help you lose weight because it makes you feel full. Your doctor will encourage you to get more fiber in your diet. You may also take a fiber supplement. Men should get 30 to 38 g of fiber per day. Women should get 21 to 25 g per day.
Beta-glucan is a type of soluble fiber found in oat bran and other plants. It slightly reduces LDL cholesterol, which is why oat bran is touted as a cholesterol-lowering food.
Soy: Many studies have shown that eating soy protein , rather than animal meat, helps lower blood cholesterol levels, especially when you eat a diet low in saturated fat. One study found that as little as 20 g of soy protein per day is effective in reducing total cholesterol, and that 40 to 50 g shows faster effects . Another study found that soy can help reduce triglyceride levels. The AHA recommends that people with elevated total and LDL cholesterol add soy to their daily diet, and that soy is safe when consumed as part of your regular diet. But talk to your doctor before you take soy supplements. Soy isoflavones may have estrogen-like effects in the body, which might lead to an increased risk of breast and other cancers.
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Other Causes Of High Cholesterol
While extremely high cholesterol levels are typically a sign of FH, Dr. Yang says there have been cases where eating habits have been the cause particularly since the growth in popularity of ketogenic diets for weight loss.
“Individuals are eating lots of red meat, saturated fat from dairy products and avoiding simple carbohydrates,” he says. “And we have seen, in isolated cases, individuals having cholesterol levels that approach 800 or 900 so they’re similar to what we see in patients who have familial hypercholesterolemia.”
If tests show you have extremely high cholesterol levels and you’re following this kind of diet, Dr. Yang recommends that you let your doctor or health care provider know what you’ve been eating.
Eating A Lot Of Fatty Foods And Lack Of Exercise
Well admit, this sign seems pretty straightforward, but theres absolutely no denying that eating a lot of fatty foods greatly increases the cholesterol levels in your body. A lack of exercise allows cholesterol to build up in your body. Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking are also highly detrimental. In short, if youre living an unhealthy lifestyle, chances are youre also dealing with high cholesterol.
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Ldl Cholesterol Or Bad Cholesterol
LDL cholesterol is often called bad cholesterol. It carries cholesterol to your arteries. If your levels of LDL cholesterol are too high, it can build up on the walls of your arteries.
This buildup is also known as cholesterol plaque. This plaque can narrow your arteries, limit your blood flow, and raise your risk of blood clots. If a blood clot blocks an artery in your heart or brain, it can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Drop The Ketosis And Eat More Fiber
There is a common misunderstanding that a low-carb diet has to be ketogenic.
That is, that carbs should be low enough for the body to start producing ketones out of fatty acids.
This type of diet appears to be the most effective for people with epilepsy. Many people also claim to get the best results, mental and physical, when theyre in ketosis.
However more modest carb restriction can still be considered low-carb.
Although there is no clear definition, anything up to 100-150 grams per day can be classified as a low-carb diet.
It is possible that some individuals see cholesterol increases when theyre in ketosis, but improve when they eat just enough carbs to avoid going into ketosis.
You can try eating 1-2 pieces of fruit per day maybe a potato or sweet potato with dinner, or small servings of healthier starches like rice and oats.
Depending on your metabolic health and personal preferences, you could also just adopt a higher-carb version of paleo instead.
This can also be a very healthy diet, as demonstrated by long-living populations like the Kitavans and Okinawans, who ate a lot of carbs.
Although ketosis can have many incredible benefits, it is definitely not for everyone.
Exercising, getting better sleep and minimizing stress levels can also help.
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Addressing Issues With High Cholesterol
A person cannot directly alter their genetic makeup however, they can reduce the risk factors that are associated with heredity by altering their lifestyle. This means engaging in a healthy lifestyle that is not associated with any type of drug misuse or abuse. Individuals using or abusing drugs or alcohol should become involved in substance use disorder treatment programs to address these issues.
Other common sense interventions to engage in include:
- Eating a balanced diet
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How Do I Know If I Have High Cholesterol
Many Australians don’t know they have high cholesterol, because there are no symptoms. High cholesterol can only be detected through a blood test.
Some people have a condition called familial hypercholesterolaemia where a genetic problem leads to high cholesterol. About one in 500 Australians has this condition and many dont know they have it. If you have a family history of high cholesterol or of heart disease at a young age, ask your doctor about your risk.
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What Is High Cholesterol Symptoms Causes Diagnosis Treatment And Prevention
High cholesterol is a condition that occurs when levels of cholesterol in your blood are elevated enough to cause health problems, including heart disease and stroke. Sometimes known as hyperlipidemia, high cholesterol is painless and doesnt cause any symptoms until a person develops severe heart disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and stroke is the fifth leading cause.
Produced by your liver, cholesterol is a dense, fatty substance thats found in every cell of your body, and it is considered essential to many life-sustaining functions. It helps your body make hormones and vitamin D, and it’s also found in compounds that your body creates to help you digest food, such as bile.
Circulating in the bloodstream in small bundles of fat and protein called lipoproteins, cholesterol comes in two primary types: low-density lipoprotein , which contributes to the buildup of fatty plaques, and high-density lipoprotein , which is thought to protect from heart disease and stroke. A blood test known as a lipid panel can measure both LDL and HDL cholesterol, as well as triglycerides, the most common type of fat in the blood.
Who Should Consider Meds
If you fall into any of these categories, statins are likely to provide a significant benefit , so talk with your doctor about them if:
You already have plaque in your arteries.
Your LDL target will be even lower than 130 it should be at least under 100 mg/dL, and ideally under 70 mg/dL.
You have diabetes.
Anyone with diabetes over the age of 40 should take a statin, since chronically high blood sugar greatly increases your risk of developing heart disease.
Your LDL is super high .
You’re a time bomb. Statins will likely drop your levels way down into a safer zone.
Your age, blood pressure, smoking history, and cholesterol numbers point to a high chance of trouble.
Even if you dont meet the above criteria, you may still have a high risk of developing a heart attack or stroke. Docs figure out how high using calculators that estimate your 10-year risk of having heart disease. If your ten-year risk is more than 7.5%, youd likely be safer with a statin.
Your arteries are filled with calcium.
If the calculator pegs your risk in a lower range, but youre still concerned , you can get a scan to further assess your risk. A CAT scan of your heart, for example, can quantify its calcium burden, or score, and very abnormal results indicate a more urgent need to lower your cholesterol.
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High Cholesterol: The Big Picture
When the body’s metabolism the process by which the body turns food into energy is affected by a health problem, cholesterol levels in the blood are often affected, too. Figuring out the best way to treat high cholesterol starts with understanding why it’s happening identifying other health problems is a primary consideration.
“When we see people who come in for assessment of an elevated form of LDL cholesterol or triglycerides, we always want to look for associated metabolic abnormalities,” says cardiologist Stephen J. Nicholls, PhD, professor of cardiology at the University of Adelaide in Australia.
High cholesterol treatment is about “managing not just one risk factor in our patients, but the whole picture,” says Dr. Nicholls. “It’s often important to keep that in mind when you’re looking at a patient and their cholesterol levels.”
The Lowdown On High Cholesterol
Usually, he says, very high cholesterol levels occur in people who have an inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolemia . “In those patients, you can have total cholesterol levels that are over 1,000,” Dr. Yang says. “And you can have those patients who have LDL, or ‘bad cholesterol,’ levels of over 500.”
According to the FH Foundation, a genetic mutation makes it difficult for the bodies of people with FH to remove low-density lipoprotein from their bloodstreams. LDL can build up on artery walls, causing atherosclerosis , which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Because of their higher cholesterol levels, people with FH develop heart disease at much younger ages. Without treatment, the American Heart Association says, men with FH will get coronary heart disease up to 20 years earlier than normal, while women with FH will get coronary heart disease up to 30 years earlier.
“With patients who have very high cholesterol levels close to 1,000 we will see those individuals have heart attacks before the age of 20,” says Dr. Yang. “So, it’s very dangerous, and it’s something that needs immediate involvement by a cardiologist or somebody who specializes in treating lipid disorders.”
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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.
How To Prevent High Cholesterol
If you have any of the health conditions listed above, you’re at risk for developing high cholesterol but you can take steps to prevent it. Getting regular exercise and improving your diet by reducing your intake of foods high in saturated fat can go a long way to keep cholesterol levels down and protect your heart health.
Discuss your risk of high cholesterol with your doctor. Monitoring your cholesterol levels with a simple blood test is important for getting to a healthy goal and lowering your risk of heart attack. Your doctor may recommend that you take a cholesterol-lowering medication, if needed, to get to the cholesterol level that’s best for you to keep your risk of heart disease as low as possible.
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The Forming Of A Grey Ring Around Your Cornea
This one is pretty tough to spot, so look closely. If you notice that theres a greyish ring around the cornea of your eye, that could be a pretty good indication of high cholesterol being built up in that area. The cornea covers the iris of the eye. Because the grey rings are common with older people, its only a reliable indicator of high cholesterol for people under 45.
Negative Impact Of High Cholesterol
Studying cholesterol in older adults is trickier than it sounds, Martin says. Many people who have high cholesterol die from complications of heart disease before reaching an advanced age. Those who live into their 70s or 80s despite high cholesterol might have other factors that increased their longevity. That bias could skew the research results.
If someone has made it to that age and hasnt had problems from their cholesterol, they may have gotten lucky with genes or other protective factors, he says. But that doesnt mean high cholesterol is harmless or that their luck wont run out.
In addition, high cholesterol is one of many factors that work together to contribute to cardiovascular disease, along with elements such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and inactivity. Cholesterol might not always be the single most important factor, Martin says, but its a piece of the puzzle that patients and doctors should not ignore.
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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.