If you have been paying attention to health talks, you must have heard so much about cholesterol being at the center of causes for hearts related crises. Cholesterol is said to be good for your health. But before you get all confused about cholesterol, it is better to understand cholesterol; what is it? What does it do? And why it is good and bad for you?
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your blood. Cholesterol is transported around in the body by two small packages called lipoproteins and come as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipo-protein (HDL). Cholesterol plays an important role in the human body, and maintaining a healthy cholesterol level is most important.
What is the function of cholesterol?
Cholesterol helps the body to make hormones. It also helps in producing vitamin D, which is an essential vitamin for important body functions including building strong bones. Cholesterol also makes substances that help the body to digest foods.
How is cholesterol produced?
The body produces all the cholesterol it needs. But you get additional quantity from some foods you eat. There are two types of cholesterols in the body, the low-density and high-density cholesterol. Low density is sometimes referred to as Bad cholesterol due while high density is Good cholesterol.
Why is cholesterol of serious health concern?
Cholesterol condition arises when its level in the blood is out of normal range. At such time, cholesterol level is said to be high. Therefore, high blood cholesterol poses a danger to your health, especially heart-related problems. Unfortunately, high blood cholesterol has no known symptoms or signs until the damage is done.
What are the dangers of high blood cholesterol?
High blood cholesterol can result in some grievous dangers; a few listed below:
- Heart diseases: high blood cholesterol can result in coronary heart disease or known as coronary artery disease. Heart gets oxygen rich blood via tube-like passages known as Arteries. Wax build up blocks this and, it becomes difficult for the heart to get enough oxygen for its activities, and this will result in further complications.
- High blood pressure: high blood cholesterol can lead to high blood pressure since narrowing of the arteries would cause difficulty in heart function. Again, this can lead to grievous consequences if left unattended.
- Heart attack: resulting from the coronary heart disease is a situation where the cholesterol substances in the arteries get hardened and rupture. Thereby causing a stoppage of oxygenated blood to the heart, a prolonged stoppage effects can lead to heart attack.
What are the causes of high blood cholesterol?
Blood carries cholesterol by attaching to proteins. The joining of cholesterol with proteins is called lipoprotein. And there are two types of lipoproteins, determined by the type of cholesterol in a lipoprotein; it can either be Low or High. Lipoprotein has two sides; on the inside is the fat side called lipid, on the outside is the protein. The movement of lipoprotein takes place through the arteries and due to arrangement of lipid (inside) and protein (outside), the arteries can get blocked according to the quality and quantity of lipoprotein in the blood.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): Also referred to as BAD cholesterol. It carries cholesterol particles through blood, which builds up gradually from day to day on the walls of the arteries and narrowing the channel for effective blood circulation.
Very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL): VLDL has a high level of triglycerides, which makes LDL cholesterol larger in size, making the arteries channel even narrower. The movement of this quality of cholesterol causes blockage of the arteries and leads to serious blood circulation problems.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL): high-density lipoprotein also called “GOOD” unlike bad cholesterol, takes excess cholesterol in the blood back to the liver. It does not allow for a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries.
It is the presence of bad cholesterol in the blood that causes high blood cholesterol, which leads to hearts related complications.
Factors causing high blood cholesterol
Understanding factors that can cause high blood cholesterol will help you take necessary precautions in your day to day living. You need to remember that your body does produce its cholesterol needs and you can get additional cholesterol from the food you eat. The following are likely causes of high blood cholesterol:
Your diet: the food you eat can contain cholesterol, and it is this source that contributes to a high level of low-density cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in your body. Sources of bad cholesterol include – animal fat, meat, cheese and egg yolks to mention but a few. Saturated fat found in meat, dairy products, and chocolate, baked foods, deep-fried and processed foods. Trans-fatty acids are equally bad, contributing to bad cholesterol in the body.
Lack of exercise and overweight: Another contributor to high blood cholesterol is a lack of exercise, which often leads to accumulation of body fat and eventually weight gain. It raises the quantity of bad cholesterol in the blood.
Genetic factor: Family history can contribute to high blood cholesterol. You need to find out if you have such history.
Age and Sex: Your age and sex can contribute to high blood cholesterol. Men often experience low, a high-density level of lipoprotein early in life. Women at a certain age, usually after 55 years, often come down with higher LDL than men.
Can high blood cholesterol be prevented?
Yes. It is possible to prevent high blood cholesterol by following simple heart healthy lifestyle. Avoiding things that could lead to a high prevalence of LDL and sustain a healthy level of HDL is a good way to go.
The following are great suggestions to help.
- Keep a healthy body weight.
- Eat healthily, low-fat foods and low salt diets such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol.
- Exercise regularly at least 30 minutes every day.
High blood cholesterol treatment
Treatments are available and come in different forms and costs. Talking to your doctor and taking necessary tests to ascertain the right treatment is best advised. You can also decide on alternative medicine course of treatment.
Whatever your choice of treatment, getting adequate information is important to determine the effectiveness of the treatment you chose.