Cholesterol 101: A guide to high cholesterol, HDL, LDL, symptoms and causes
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is produced by the liver naturally. It plays a vital role in many important functions including the formation of the cell membrane, certain hormones and Vitamin D.
It is a non-soluble substance and does not dissolve in water and that is the reason it can’t travel in the bloodstream on its own.
Lipoproteins are produced by the liver to help in the transportation of cholesterol.
LDL And HDL
Lipoproteins are the particles made out of fat and protein. They are helpful in carrying cholesterol and other lipids through blood. The two main types of lipid protein are:
- Low Density Lipoprotein(LDL)
- High Density Lipoprotein(HDL)
LDL is any cholesterol carried by low density lipoproteins. If there is too much LDL in your blood you might get diagnosed with high cholesterol. If left untreated it can lead to chronic health issues like heart attack and stroke.
When the amount of cholesterol rises it usually doesn’t show any symptoms.
HDL is also known as good cholesterol because the higher the levels of HDL in the blood, the lower the risk of heart disease.
What Is High Cholesterol?
This condition has become very common all over the world today. It is asymptomatic most of the time. If you are an adult or child having total cholesterol above 200 mg/dL is very harmful for your body and overall health.
Optimal Cholesterol Levels
Total Cholesterol – 150 mg/dL
LDL – 100 mg/dL
HDL – 40-50 mg/dL
Triglycerides – less than 150 mg/dL
In most of the cases it is a silent condition and doesn’t show any sign or symptom. Many people don’t even realize that they are suffering from the condition they face, something like a heart attack. That is why it becomes very important to include the checking of cholesterol parameters in your routine checkup.
Eating too many foods that are high in saturated fats and trans fats may increase the risk. If you have obesity you can be at higher risk of developing diseases linked with high cholesterol. There are various other lifestyle factors like smoking and lack of physical activity which can be harmful for your health.
Genetics are responsible for developing this condition. Parents pass down their genes to children. There are certain genes that instruct our body to process cholesterol and fats. If your parents or some immediate family is already suffering you are at higher risk of developing it.
There are very rare cases of familial hypercholesterolemia. It is a genetic disorder that prevents your body from disposing of LDL.
Other diseases like diabetes and hypothyroidism may also increase the risk and complications.
Although it is true that our body needs some cholesterol including LDL to function properly. But higher levels can raise your risk of various health problems.
As per the new guidelines developed, in addition to checking various parameters in your blood you should also analyze other risk factors including family history and any other underlying health conditions.
The risk of developing high cholesterol can be greater if you:
- Have Obesity
- Consume large amount of saturated fats and trans fat, like those found in fast food
- Have habits like smoking
- Lack of physical activity
- Have diabetes, kidney disease or hypothyroidism.
If you are suffering from high cholesterol and it remains untreated it can cause plaque to build up in your arteries.
This plaque when developed in large amounts can narrow your arteries. This condition is also known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a serious health condition that can limit the blood flow throughout arteries. It also creates a high risk of developing blood clots.
It can result in many life threatening complications like:
- Heart Attack
- High Blood Pressure
- Peripheral Vascular Disease
- Various chronic Renal Diseases
- Bile Imbalance can also be caused which leads to gallstones.
1. Eat Soluble Fiber
Soluble fiber can be defined as a group of various different compounds present in plants that dissolve in water and which can’t be digested by humans. But the good bacteria present in the intestine can actually digest soluble fibers. They help in decreasing LDL levels in the body. Various foods include:
- Oat Cereals
- Flax Seeds
Exercise can prove very helpful for heart health. It helps in improving physical fitness and also contributes in combating obesity. Exercises that elevate your heart rate also increase HDL levels in the body.
3. Avoid Smoking
Smoking is responsible for increasing the risk of various heart conditions. The immune cells in cholesterol are not able to return cholesterol to blood for transo\portation to the liver.
That’s why it is important to stay away from smoking.
The Bottom Line
Cholesterol is very important in the overall functioning of the body. But if present in large amounts it can cause clogged arteries and heart disease which can lead to untimely death.