High cholesterol is a global health problem. In the United States alone, there are about 100 million American adults who suffer from it. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, about 7% of young people between the ages of 6 and 9 have it too. How dangerous is high cholesterol? What happens to your body if your cholesterol levels rise? What can you do to protect yourself from it?
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is an organic substance in the blood that helps in the growth and development of cells. However, if it is present in your body at very high levels, it can be detrimental to your health, increasing your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other complications.
What are the potential causes of high cholesterol?
There are several things that can lead to an increase in your cholesterol levels. Below are examples:
If you eat lots of foods that are high in saturated fat and trans fats, your cholesterol levels will definitely increase. Therefore, you have to cut down your consumption foods that contain these and have a healthy and balanced diet made up of fruits and vegetables, lean meat, and whole grains.
Lack of exercise
If you live a sedentary lifestyle or are not very physically active, your odds of having high cholesterol is higher than someone who exercises on a regular basis. Through exercise, you can enhance your body’s good cholesterol or HDL levels, and disable the bad cholesterol or LDL.
Being overweight or obese
Having extra fats and pounds not only can ruin your self-esteem and body image, but it can also make you prone to different kinds of health problems, including high cholesterol. If you are struggling with your weight and have high cholesterol, you are at great risk of heart disease.
The substances found in tobacco and cigarettes can cause serious harm and damage to the walls of your arteries and blood vessels, increasing the chances of fatty deposit buildup and accumulation. They can reduce your good cholesterol or HDL too.
If you have diabetes, your odds of having high cholesterol is great. Your high blood sugar levels can damage your artery linings, lower your good cholesterol or HDL, and increase your very-low-density-lipoprotein or VLDL, which is a hazardous type of cholesterol.
How do you know if you have high cholesterol?
High cholesterol does not really trigger noticeable signs and symptoms, so the best way to determine if you have it is by going through testing.
A cholesterol test is a test that can check your body’s cholesterol levels. It requires a sample of your blood to calculate the amounts of four different types of fats or lipids found in your blood —- total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
This is the total or sum of all the cholesterol found in your blood.
This is the good kind of cholesterol that keeps your arteries in great condition, allowing blood circulation and blood flow to occur smoothly.
This is the bad kind of cholesterol that causes the formation of fatty buildups in your arteries, disrupting blood circulation and blood flow. If there is too much of it in your blood, you are having a high likelihood of getting a heart attack or a stroke.
These are a type of fat that is formed from the excess calories that your body does need. High triglyceride levels are usually caused by eating too much sugary foods, excessive drinking of alcohol, and high blood sugar levels.
It is important that you fast, meaning you should not eat or drink anything other than water, about nine to twelve hours prior to the test. That way, the test results can show the most accurate measurements.
Once your test results are back, they may contain any of the following numbers:
- Below 200 milligrams per deciliter – Desirable
- Between 200 milligrams per deciliter and 239 milligrams per deciliter – Borderline high
- Equal to or above 240 milligrams per deciliter – High
- Below 40 milligrams per deciliter (men) or below 50 milligrams per deciliter (women) – Poor
- Between 40 milligrams per deciliter and 59 milligrams per deciliter (men) or between 50 milligrams per deciliter and 59 milligrams per deciliter (women) – Better
- Equal to or above 60 milligrams per deciliter – Best
- Below 70 milligrams per deciliter- Best (if you have diabetes or heart disease)
- Below 100 milligrams per deciliter – Optimal (if you are at risk of heart disease)
- Between 100 milligrams per deciliter and 129 milligrams per deciliter – Near-optimal (if you have no heart disease); High (if you have heart disease)
- Between 130 milligrams per deciliter and 159 milligrams per deciliter – Borderline high (if you have no heart disease); High (if you have heart disease)
- Between 160 milligrams per deciliter and 189 milligrams per deciliter – High (if you have no heart disease); Very high (if you have heart disease)
- Equal to or above 190 milligrams per deciliter – Very high
- Below 150 milligrams per deciliter – Desirable
- Between 150 milligrams per deciliter and 199 milligrams per deciliter – Borderline high
- Between 200 milligrams per deciliter and 499 milligrams per deciliter – High
- Equal to or above 500 milligrams per deciliter – Very high
What are the available treatment methods for high cholesterol?
There are many ways to fix high cholesterol. You can start by making healthy lifestyle changes, such as eating more healthily and exercising regularly. You also have to discuss with your doctor what medications you can take.
These can facilitate the removal of cholesterol from your blood. They can also help with the reduction of cholesterol buildups on your artery walls, and potentially reverse coronary artery disease.
Cholesterol absorption inhibitors
These work by reducing the amount of dietary cholesterol absorbed by your body.
These makes your liver produce more bile acids using excess cholesterol in your body.
These are injectable medications that can reduce the cholesterol in your blood by making your liver absorb more bad cholesterol.