High cholesterol has been one of the major health problems in the USA. Approximately ninety-five million adults are suffering from high cholesterol, which can result in stroke and heart disease. However, your bodies produce cholesterol naturally as it is an essential part used in creating new cells. Your liver is responsible for producing the cholesterol to fulfill your body’s needs. It is found in your daily food, including a balanced healthy diet.
The key to sorting it is to understand the different types of cholesterol. You are not alone in wondering about good and bad cholesterol and its importance for your health. Even the people with the highest risk of heart disease may struggle to understand the connection between heart health and high cholesterol levels.
Let’s dive in and know about cholesterol and its different types.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like waxy substance synthesized naturally in your body to make healthy cells, vitamins, and hormones. As it is produced in your body, cholesterol levels increase whenever you eat animal products, including meat and poultry.
Basic functions of cholesterol necessary for your survival are:
- Helps produce steroid hormones
- Assist in the synthesis of vitamin D
- Maintains your cell membrane structure
Cholesterol moves through your body in your bloodstream on lipoproteins which are a combination of fats and proteins. The different types of lipoproteins only determine the ‘good’ and ‘bad cholesterol.
The type of lipoprotein known as high-density lipoprotein or HDL is good cholesterol. HDL is a good kind as it absorbs cholesterol from all the other body parts and brings it to the liver. Your liver from there flushes out the excess cholesterol out of the body. HDL is like a vacuum cleaner of your body, helping to reduce the bad cholesterol to deposit in the arteries.
HDL, or good cholesterol, has various anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. High HDL levels are correlated with a decrease in risk for stroke, heart attack, and cardiovascular diseases.
How to Raise Levels of HDL or Good Cholesterol?
You can increase good cholesterol levels with a certain lifestyle and diet changes with the help of following, but not restricted to:
- Exercise regularly
- Increase your niacin levels
- Adopt the Mediterranean diet
- Quit smoking
However, you must consult your physician or healthcare provider before making any changes in your diet or lifestyle.
When cholesterol travels on low-density proteins or LDL, it is referred to as bad cholesterol. It makes up most of the cholesterol in your body. High levels of LDL cholesterol can result in the building of plaque in your blood vessels. It leads to hardening and narrowing the arteries, which blocks the blood flow to your heart and other organs. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. It can cause serious diseases such as heart attack, coronary artery diseases, kidney issues, and stroke in the long run.
Your habits and lifestyle play a great role. But you may be genetically inclined to have high cholesterol than others. The risk increases with health conditions such as diabetes and also with age.
Causes of High Cholesterol
Various factors such as age, genetics, diet, and certain lifestyle factors can cause high LDL levels.
Smoking causes your blood cells to stick to each other, resulting in clots, which leads to an increase in LDL levels. Besides, smoking can change the configuration of lipid-transporting enzymes that helps in the metabolism of HDL.
It has a negative impact on the amount and function of your body’s good cholesterol.
Some health conditions impact the way cholesterol is metabolized and lead to increased levels of LDL:
- Obesity: It changes your body’s mechanism of processing cholesterol, increasing HDL.
- Diabetes: It can lead to increased levels of triglycerides and LDL. Besides, it also results in lower HDL levels causing heart issues.
- Hypothyroidism: It lowers the ability of the body to efficiently eliminate LDL. Even the slightest reduction in the TSH or thyroid-stimulating hormone can result in considerable increases.
One of the major reasons for high cholesterol in the population today is the sedentary lifestyle, which lowers the production of HDL. Sedentary activities such as increased screen time, sitting jobs, and others result in lower HDL levels. Besides, such a lifestyle can increase low-grade inflammation in your entire body, making you more prone to diseases.
How to Lower Cholesterol?
Though a healthy diet, regular exercise, and the right lifestyle are best to lower cholesterol, some people are needed to take medicines as well.
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitors: This medication helps lower LDL levels by inhibiting your intestine from absorbing the cholesterol you are having in your diet. The most common type of this medication is Ezetimibe (Zetia) which is prescribed with other medications. Its common side effects are fatigue and stomach pain.
- Statins: They are the common medications used. Statins block the enzyme responsible for cholesterol production in your body, resulting in lowering the amount entering the bloodstream. Rosuvastatin (Crestor) and Atorvastatin (Lipitor) are the most common types that are often used.
- Bile acid resin: This drug works in your intestine. It attaches to bile and prevents it from being absorbed into the bloodstream. As bile is made of cholesterol, it helps in lowering cholesterol levels in your body. Colesevelam (WelChol) and cholestyramine (Prevalite) are the common resin medicines.
Ensure that you only take these medicines when prescribed by your doctor and in the suggested dosages.
When an excess of LDL cholesterol builds up plaque in your arteries, it blocks your blood vessels. In this case, the doctor performs angioplasty. It is a procedure where a small balloon is attached to a catheter and inserted into the blocked vessel to clear the pathway. Though this procedure doesn’t lower cholesterol, it reduces the heart attack risk.
Making lifestyle changes is the first line of defense in preventing high cholesterol. Even a modest change can go a long way to help you prevent high cholesterol levels saving you from various heart diseases. However, there is no harm in taking medication to reduce LDL levels. Ensure that you consult your doctor and only upon their prescription have your meds.
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Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for any diagnostic or medical purpose or the treatment of any symptom or condition.