Most of us have become so overly health-conscious nowadays that the very moment physicians and doctors mention the words ‘cholesterol’, ‘blood sugar’ or ‘hypertension’, we automatically think that these terminologies have an unhealthy connotation. In this context, cholesterol as a nutrient or component, like most other constituents, is a mixed blessing as far as our well being is concerned.
Normally, cholesterol (the good part that is) is essential for the formation of new cells, generation of hormones, and insulation of nerve cells. Liver, the largest organ in our body is responsible for manufacturing and meeting our cholesterol needs. However, we also ingest cholesterol externally via proteinaceous foods like meat, eggs, and nuts to name a few.
High levels of blood cholesterol can lead to heart disease
You might be aware that there are essentially two distinct kinds of cholesterol-LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol-that are found in the bloodstream. Towards this end, it might not be out of place to mention that as long as our body receives the optimal amount of cholesterol, it is able to function smoothly. Health problems start surfacing the moment there is an abnormal spike in the blood cholesterol level.
And the heart which is the principal organ of the circulatory system is adversely affected when there is excessive deposition of cholesterol in your system, especially the bad part. Undue amounts of cholesterol in your bloodstream make you highly susceptible or vulnerable to heart attacks. Excessive circulation of cholesterol in the blood eventually leads to its buildup or deposition on the arterial walls causing their hardening. In medical parlance, the term that is used for signifying such uncharacteristic hardening is atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is somewhat similar to arteriostenosis where the arterial passage through which the blood flows hardens up and becomes constricted. Consequently, normal blood flow is compromised that ultimately results in the blockage of the section of the heart (as it doesn’t receive sufficient blood) causing a heart failure. You may experience mild to severe chest pain prior to a heart attack usually due to the compromised blood inflow and deficient oxygen supply. LDL cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein which the physicians call the bad cholesterol is singly responsible for the plaque formation that clogs the arteries and hinders blood circulation. On the other hand, HDL or high-density lipoprotein (the good cholesterol) helps in clearing off the bad cholesterol. Triglycerides are another category of cholesterol thriving in the bloodstream, and an unusually high content of the same has also been attributed to causing heart attacks.
How’ll you know that you’ve high cholesterol level?
In case your cholesterol levels are on the higher range, you may not be affected by symptoms that’ll help in establishing as such. This is so because increased blood cholesterol is generally asymptomatic not at least directly. It is only when you feel very dizzy, nauseous, exhausted, have difficulty in catching your breath, numbing pain in the upper abdomen, chest, and other areas of the body do you conclude that you may be having a high level of blood cholesterol. The above signs are generally associated with hypertension or high blood pressure. Hypertensive patients or individuals usually have an abnormally high level of cholesterol.
In extreme cases (i.e. when you’ve high cholesterol), you could suffer from a heart attack or stroke that might render you incapacitated for quite some time. Opting for a complete blood assay is the most scientific way to determine your exact blood cholesterol level. And in case, the condition is hereditary or genetic then your physician will recommend you to get blood test on a periodic basis.
What level is regarded as high?
Medical science suggests every individual over 20 should get a lipid profile done at least every 4-5 years. The assay evaluates your total cholesterol rate or level; LDL; HDL, and triglycerides. A total cholesterol number lesser than 200 is considered normal or desirable; if it is in the range of 200-230 it is regarded as mildly high just on the borderline, and if your level crosses this threshold, you’re classified under the ‘high’ category.
As for LDL cholesterol, anything below 100 is perfect; it is regarded as almost optimal if the range is within 100-129; when it is in the region of 130-159 it is just on the ‘borderline high’ mark; if it is between 160-189, it is considered as high and anything beyond this range is bracketed as ‘abnormally high’. As far as HDL numbers are concerned, a higher figure is regarded desirable as having a lower number renders you more susceptible to heart disease. You should aim keeping your level above the ‘60’ mark if you want to stay perfectly healthy and see to it that the same never plunges beneath ‘40’.
Factors or aspects that influence blood cholesterol levels
Amongst the factors impacting your cholesterol level, the most significant one that impinges on it directly is your diet. If your meals comprise foods or food items laden with cholesterol, trans-fat, saturated fat, and carbohydrates, then the level of cholesterol in your bloodstream will spike. You should include more vegetables, leafy veggies, fruits, and items processed from whole grains in your diet and reduce your consumption of red meat, eggs, high-fat dairy foods, and highly refined foods.
Obesity is another high risk factor for high cholesterol, and also increases your chances of suffering from heart disease. Obviously, burning excessive fat and bringing down your weight to desirable levels will lead to a reduction in the LDL as well as triglyceride levels concomitantly. Working out for nothing less than half an hour daily is recommended for keeping cholesterol level normal. Certain medical conditions including kidney or liver disease or hypothyroidism may lead to cholesterol level elevation.
Lowering high blood cholesterol and keeping the same normal
If consistent blood tests determine, you’ve high blood cholesterol, then you’ll have to bring about some changes in your current lifestyle as advised by your doctor in order to bring it down to controllable levels. Lowering cholesterol generally implies controlling LDL levels which tend to shoot up and remain on the higher side if you’ve high cholesterol. Depending on the goals (for bringing down high cholesterol) set by your doctor after he or she has reviewed the risk factors (of getting a heart attack), you’ll have to introduce necessary or stipulated lifestyle changes.