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High Cholesterol

Keeping your blood cholesterol at a healthy level can help you reduce your risk of heart disease and other serious conditions

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Cholesterol is a substance used by your body to produce cell tissues, protect nerves and make certain hormones.

 

When it comes to cholesterol, there are two terms you should be familiar with; hyperlipidemia (or dyslipidemia), which means your blood has an unnecessary amount of fats in it such as triglycerides and cholesterol. The other term is hypercholesterolemia which is a type of hyperlipidemia in which there is too much LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood. Hypercholestereolemia causes a risk of blockage through increased fatty deposits in the heart and other arteries.

 

There is another way your cholesterol balance may be off if the levels of HDL (good cholesterol) is too low in the blood. 

What are the signs and symptoms of high cholesterol?

 

High cholesterol does not specifically show any symptoms. It is possible that you have high cholesterol and just not know it. 

 

The only way to find out if you have high cholesterol is through a blood test that examines the level of fats in your blood. Other ways to tell if you are at risk of high cholesterol include: 

  • Poor diet

  • Smoking 

  • Lack of physical exercise 

  • Age 

  • Family history

  • Certain medical conditions such as thyroid and diabetes.

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Many people do not discover that they have high cholesterol until a life-threatening event takes place. Its not a wise decision to ignore it so get it checked from your doctor periodically.

What causes high cholesterol?

Excess weight or obesity can lead to higher level of bad cholesterol in the blood. Additionally, certain genetic factors contribute to this increase if there is history of hypercholestereolemia in your family. 

 

Other conditions that can lead to the increase cholesterol levels include: 

  • Age

  • Lack of physical activity, sedentary lifestyle

  • Overweight or obesity

  • Genetics or family history of high cholesterol

  • Certain medical conditions such as liver or kidney disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, under-active thyroid gland 

  • Pregnancy 

  • Drugs such as progestins, corticosteroids and anabolic steroids 

 

Smoking lowers HDL, hence is also a cause of high level of bad cholesterol in your blood. 

What is good and bad cholesterol?

 

There are two most common types of cholesterol:  

 

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), this type of cholesterol is also called the ‘bad’ cholesterol  

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL), his type of cholesterol is also called the ‘good’ cholesterol. 

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LDL (Bad Cholesterol)

LDL makes up the most  of blood cholesterol. It can stick to the walls of arteries and cause a fatty build-up called plaque. Too much plaque leads to blockages that prevent blood from flowing properly to the heart.  

HDL (Good Cholesterol)

HDL is healthy because it carries LDL away from the arteries and back to the liver to be broken down and then passed as waste. 

 

Cholesterol and triglycerides 

Triglycerides are the most common fat in the body. Being overweight, eating a lot of high fat and sugary foods, or drinking too much alcohol can increase your triglyceride levels. High triglycerides, along with either increased LDL cholesterol or decreased HDL cholesterol can increase your chances of developing fatty build-ups in the arteries, and a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.  

Lifestyle Changes

 

Changing behaviours will go a long way towards improving your cholesterol profile:

 

  • Reduce your consumption of saturated fat and trans fat. Click here for diet advice. 

  • Get regular with your exercise. At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise in a week is a good start to lower high cholesterol as well as blood pressure, and increase good cholesterol. 

  • Quit smoking to protect your arteries and lower the cholesterol level. 

  • Lose excess weight

 

If the lifestyle changes alone do not improve the cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe some medication depending on your levels and risk factor profile.