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.
Health Conditions That Lead To High Cholesterol
A number of health conditions can lead to high cholesterol levels, and high cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, including heart attack. Knowing your risk is the first step to prevention.
Health conditions known to increase cholesterol levels include:
These health conditions raise cholesterol levels for different reasons. First, the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood essentially reflect the body’s metabolism of the fat that we eat in a day, says Nicholls.
“Diabetes and thyroid disorders can affect the way we metabolize cholesterol and triglycerides,” which then has a direct effect on triglyceride and cholesterol levels in the blood, he says. So when these conditions slow down metabolism, the body isn’t able to process everything it needs to, including fats and cholesterol.
In conditions like alcoholism and liver disease, the liver is not functioning at full capacity, so it can’t metabolize all of the saturated fat from the diet and the cholesterol that the body produces. Because of this, cholesterol builds up in the blood, Nicholls explains.
Learn The Warning Signs Of Serious Complications And Have A Plan
High blood cholesterol can lead to serious cardiovascular complications, such as heart attack or stroke. If you think that you are or someone else is having the following symptoms, Every minute matters.
Heart attack symptoms include mild or severe chest pain or discomfort in the center of the chest or upper abdomen that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. This discomfort can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, heartburn, or indigestion. There also may be pain down the left arm or in the neck. Although both men and women can experience these symptoms, women are more likely to have other, less typical symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, unusual tiredness, and pain in the back, shoulders, or jaw. Read more about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and perform the following simple test.
FFace: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
AArms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
SSpeech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
TTime: If you observe any of these signs, . Early treatment is essential.
Read more about the signs and symptoms of a stroke.
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Metabolic Disorders And Diseases
A metabolic disorder occurs when abnormal chemical reactions in the body disrupt the process by which energy is obtained from food. It may be acquired, such as with metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance, or congenital. In either instance, hyperlipidemia that arises as a result of a metabolic disorder is considered secondary even if the cause of the disorder is genetic.
Several metabolic disorders are associated with secondary hyperlipidemia:
- Diabetes mellitus is associated with abnormal increases in triglycerides and very low density lipoprotein cholesterol.
- Kidney diseases are associated with high triglycerides and VLDL.
- Hypothyroidism is associated with high LDL.
- Cholestatic liver disease is linked to high LDL.
Certain autoimmune diseases such as Cushing’s syndrome and lupus also are associated with secondary hyperlipidemia. Even eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa can cause abnormal elevations of total cholesterol and LDL.
Any disorder that affects the endocrine system or metabolism can increase the risk of secondary hyperlipidemia.
Diet And Lifestyle Modifications
The first step in addressing hyperlipidemia is modifying the lifestyle factors that contribute to abnormally high blood fatspoor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and the overuse of alcohol.
Among the lifestyle interventions a doctor may recommend:
- Diet: Reduce intake of saturated fats to less than 7% of total daily calories and total fat to less than 30%. Replace saturated fats with healthier polyunsaturated or monosaturated fats. Increase intake of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and oily fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Weight loss: Weight loss is currently recommended for obese people with a body mass index over 30 and overweight people with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 who have at least two risk factors for cardiovascular disease .
- Exercise: The general consensus is that at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise should be performed three to four times per week.
- Smoking: Kicking this habit is possibly the single most significant lifestyle change a person can make to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Stop smoking aids like nicotine replacement therapies and Zyban can significantly improve chances of quitting.
- Alcohol: The American Heart Association recommends limiting alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
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My Pets Bloodwork Shows Hyperlipidemia What Will My Veterinarian Do Next
First, your veterinarian will confirm that the abnormal results came from a fasting sample. If your pet ate in the 12 hours prior to the blood draw, your veterinarian will likely recommend repeating the test on a blood sample collected after a 12-hour or 18-hour fast. If hyperlipidemia persists even on a fasted sample, further testing is required.
Your pets medical history will be reviewed thoroughly. Some medications can cause elevated lipid levels. If your pet is on any of these medications, your veterinarian may choose to discontinue to the medication or may continue the medication while monitoring your pets bloodwork.
“If hyperlipidemia persists even on a fasted sample, further testing is required.”
Your veterinarian will evaluate your pets history and physical exam findings to look for evidence of underlying conditions that could cause hyperlipidemia . If any of these conditions are suspected, your veterinarian will perform additional testing to diagnose or rule out these conditions.
If no other cause is identified, your veterinarian may suspect hereditary hyperlipidemia. Further testing can be performed to diagnose and characterize this abnormality.
Make The Changes Worth Making
If you have high blood cholesterol, making lifestyle changes is a great first step to lower your risk of heart disease. If those steps dont reduce your risk enough, your doctor may prescribe medications to help.
Remember: Making even modest changes now can help to prevent significant medical issues later. Do all you can to reduce your risk for the serious effects of heart attack and stroke.
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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
Estrogen Drops Ldl Rises
âI donât think this necessarily represents a change, but rather a reminder, that risk factors change at the time of menopause,â she tells WebMD. âWomen should have their risk factors measured on a regular basis and discuss with their physicians what interventions are indicated.â
Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may be needed if attempts to address rising lipid levels through lifestyle are not working, Matthews says.
âMost physicians would not start with statins before trying to make changes in lifestyle like following a healthier diet and increasing exercise,â she says.
Matthews says the rise in LDL cholesterol around the time of menopause is most likely linked to the drop in the hormone estrogen, which regulates the menstrual cycle.
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Causes Of High Cholesterol Blood Levels In The Body
The body gets its cholesterol from two sources:
- The liver produces 80 percent of the body requirement. In hypercholesterolemia due to hereditary causes, the liver produces more of cholesterol,
- The balance 20 percent comes from the foods that you eat.
High levels are, therefore, caused either by overproduction by the liver or excess consumption from the high-fat foods that you eat.
Besides these, there are other nondietary causes and risk factors why you can get abnormal levels. They are explained here:
Numbness In The Body Parts
If you are constantly experiencing numbness in your body parts, then high cholesterol can be responsible for that. However, other causes can also be responsible for numbness and swelling.
When bad cholesterol appears high in your body, it affects blood circulation and prevents healthy nutrients from reaching the body. The lack of proper oxygen is also a cause of swelling and unusual numbness.
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What Causes Hyperlipidemia
There are several possible causes of hyperlipidemia.
- Postprandial hyperlipidemia. Serum triglyceride levels are often increased for 6-12 hours after a meal, especially if your pet is eating a high-fat diet. If a post-meal sample shows elevated triglyceride levels, the test should be repeated after a 12-18 hour fast to see whether this finding is truly cause for concern.
- Medication-induced hyperlipidemia. Certain medications, such as steroids, can alter the bodys metabolism and lead to hyperlipidemia.
- Hereditary hyperlipidemia. Elevated triglyceride and/or cholesterol levels can have genetic causes. Hereditary hyperlipidemia is most common in Schnauzers, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Collies, though other breeds can also be affected. Some affected dogs show clinical signs of illness, while others are asymptomatic.
- Secondary or acquired hyperlipidemia. Elevated lipid levels are often a response to another disease process in the body. Conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, Cushings disease, pancreatitis, and certain kidney diseases can affect the bodys metabolism and contribute to hyperlipidemia.
Getting A Cholesterol Test
A blood sample is taken that will be used to determine the amount of bad cholesterol , good cholesterol and other fatty substances in your blood.
You may be asked not to eat for 10-12 hours before the cholesterol test, usually including when you’re asleep at night. This ensures that all food is completely digested and won’t affect the outcome of the test.
Your GP or practice nurse can carry out the cholesterol test and will take a blood sample, either using a needle and a syringe or by pricking your finger.
A newer type of test that measures non-high-density lipoprotein is now sometimes used because it’s thought to be a more accurate way of estimating cardiovascular disease risk than LDL.
Non-HDL cholesterol is total cholesterol minus HDL cholesterol. It’s also not necessary to fast before the test, so it is more convenient.
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Hypothyroidism And High Cholesterol
The thyroid gland situated in the neck in front of the windpipe can become overactive or underactive.
Thyroid hormones help to produce cholesterol in the body and also to get rid of any excess of it in order to maintain normal levels.
An underactive thyroid means that lower levels of the thyroid hormones are circulating in the blood and subsequently, your body is unable to break down the LDL cholesterol as efficiently. This causes more cholesterol to float around in the blood.
An overactive thyroid has the opposite effect and can drop the levels to abnormally low values.
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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Metabolic Syndrome And Hdl
Kunal Karmali, MD, a cardiologist with Northwestern Medicine in Chicago notes that a common connection ties together many of the lifestyle factors that lead to a drop in HDL cholesterol levels.
“Factors like being overweight, eating an unhealthy diet, being physically inactive and a diet high in sugar are lumped together as metabolic syndrome,” he says. “All of those factors mentioned can contribute to decreasing HDL.” The Mayo Clinic adds that high blood sugar and high blood pressure are other telltale signs of metabolic syndrome.
Menopause And Cholesterol Levels
Specifically, there is an increase in LDL cholesterol and a decrease in HDL cholesterol . The reason why these changes in lipid profiles occur at menopause is still not entirely known. Researchers suspect that there are protective factors in premenopausal women that are lost at the time of menopause. A major change that occurs at menopause is the decline in estrogen levels: estrogen likely helps clear LDL particles from circulation, and thus LDL levels rise when estrogen declines.
Furthermore, metabolic syndrome is much more prevalent after menopause. Metabolic syndrome is the name for a collection of risk factors for cardiovascular disease including obesity, hypertension, and abnormal glucose and lipid metabolism. All of these components are associated with a higher prevalence of coronary artery disease.
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Menopause Causes Cholesterol Jump Study Shows
Getty ImagesFRIDAY, Dec. 11, 2009 Doctors have known for years that a woman’s risk of developing heart disease rises after menopause, but they weren’t exactly sure why. It wasn’t clear whether the increased risk is due to the hormonal changes associated with menopause, to aging itself, or to some combination of the two.
Now, we have at least part of the answer: A new study shows beyond a doubt that menopause, not the natural aging process, is responsible for a sharp increase in cholesterol levels.
This seems to be true of all women, regardless of ethnicity, according to the study, which will be published next week in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
As they approach menopause, many, many women show a very striking increase in cholesterol levels, which in turn increases risk for later heart disease, says the lead author of the study, Karen A. Matthews, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.
Over a 10-year period, Matthews and her colleagues followed 1,054 U.S. women as they went through menopause. Each year the researchers tested study participants for cholesterol, blood pressure, and other heart disease risk factors such as blood glucose and insulin.
In nearly every woman, the study found, cholesterol levels jumped around the time of menopause.
In a first, the study did not find any measurable differences in the impact of menopause on cholesterol across ethnic groups.