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Home > Health Care > Others > High Blood Cholesterol
 
High Blood Cholesterol
Due to its reputation as a risk factor for heart disease, people tend to think of cholesterol only in negative terms. But cholesterol, as one of the body's fats (lipids), is an important part of cell membranes and is vital to the structure and function of all of your body's cells.

Cholesterol and another lipid, triglyceride, are important building blocks in the structure of cells and are also used in making hormones and producing energy.

When the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in your bloodstream become too high, your probability of developing cholesterol-containing fatty deposits (plaques) in your blood vessels increases. Over time, plaques cause your arteries to narrow, which impedes blood flow and creates a condition called atherosclerosis. Narrowing of the arteries that supply your heart with blood (coronary artery disease) can prevent your heart from getting as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs. This means an increased risk of a heart attack. Likewise, decreased blood flow to your brain can cause a stroke. Less blood flowing to your lower limbs may result in exercise-related pain or even gangrene.
 
The Signs and Symptoms
There are no symptoms of high blood cholesterol. The only way to find out if you have high blood cholesterol is by having a blood test.
 
The Causes
To circulate in your blood, which is mainly water, cholesterol and triglycerides must be carried by proteins called apoproteins. A lipoprotein is a combination of a lipid and an apoprotein.

The main types of lipoproteins are:
High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)
It is called "good" cholesterol because it helps clear excess cholesterol from your body.
Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
It is called "bad" cholesterol because it transports cholesterol to sites throughout your body, where it's either deposited or used to repair cell membranes. LDL cholesterol endorses accumulation of cholesterol in the walls of your arteries.
Very-Low-Density Lipoprotein (VLDL)
It is made up of mostly triglycerides and small amounts of protein and cholesterol.
 
Having a low level of LDL cholesterol and a high level of HDL cholesterol is advantageous for lowering your risk of developing plaques and coronary artery disease.

You may have high LDL cholesterol as a result of genetic structure or lifestyle choices, or both. Your genes can give you cells that don't remove LDL cholesterol from your blood efficiently or a liver that produces too much cholesterol as VLDL particles. Your genetic structure can also result in too few HDL particles.
 
Risk Factors
These lifestyle choices can cause or contribute to high levels of total cholesterol:
Inactivity
Lack of exercise may lower your level of HDL cholesterol.
Obesity
Excess weight increases your triglycerides. It also lowers your HDL cholesterol and increases your VLDL cholesterol. Being overweight can create a more serious risk factor for health problems depending on where you have the extra weight. If you have most of your fat around your waist or upper body, you may be referred to as apple-shaped. If you have most of your fat around your hips and thighs or lower body, you're considered to be pear-shaped.

Generally, when it comes to your health, it's better to have the shape of a pear than the shape of an apple. If you have an apple shape you carry more fat in and around your abdominal organs. Fat in your abdomen increases your risk of many of the serious conditions associated with obesity.
Diet
Cholesterol is naturally available in foods derived from animals, such as meat, eggs and cheese. Eating a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet contributes to an increased blood cholesterol level.
 
These factors increase the probability that high total cholesterol levels will lead to atherosclerosis:
Smoking
Cigarette smoking damages the walls of your arteries, making them probable to accumulate fatty deposits. Smoking may also lower your level of HDL cholesterol.
High blood pressure
By damaging the walls of your arteries, high blood pressure can accelerate the accumulation of fatty deposits on the walls of your arteries.
Type 2 diabetes
This type of diabetes results in an increase of sugar levels in your blood. Chronic high blood sugar may lead to narrowing of your arteries. If you have diabetes, controlling your cholesterol and triglyceride levels may greatly reduce your risk of complications from cardiovascular disease.
Family history of atherosclerosis
If a close family member (parent or sibling) has developed atherosclerosis before age 55, your risk of developing high cholesterol levels will be bigger than the risk of developing atherosclerosis.
 
Screening and Diagnosis
It is recommended to have a regular blood test to measure your cholesterol level. A blood test to check cholesterol levels normally measures:
HDL cholesterol
LDL cholesterol
Total cholesterol
Triglycerides
To measure cholesterol subtypes accurately, you are required to avoid eating or drinking anything (other than water) for 9 to 12 hours before the blood test.
 
Cholesterol Level
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood. The optimal levels of these various lipids are :
Total cholesterol :
Below 200 mg/dL Desirable
200-239 mg/dL Borderline high
240 mg/dL and above High
LDL cholesterol :
Below 100 mg/dL Optimal
100-129 mg/dL Near optimal
130-159 mg/dL Borderline high
160-189 mg/dL High
190 mg/dL and above Very high
HDL cholesterol:
Below 40 mg/dL Bad
40-59 mg/dL Better
60 mg/dL and above Best
Triglycerides
Below 150 mg/dL Desirable
150-199 mg/dL Borderline high
200-499 mg/dL High
500 or above Very high
 
How often should you be tested?
You should have your cholesterol tested when you're in your 20s and then at least every five years. If your values aren't within desirable ranges, your doctor may advise more frequent measurements.

Children generally don't need to undergo cholesterol testing, unless there's a family history of early-onset heart problems.
 
The Complications
High blood cholesterol can cause you to develop heart disease. It occurs because of the accumulation of fatty deposits (plaques) on the walls of your arteries (atherosclerosis), resulting in narrowed or blocked arteries.

Atherosclerosis is initially a silent, painless condition that results in reduced blood flow. If reduced flow occurs in the arteries that supply your heart with blood (coronary arteries), it can lead to a type of chest pain called angina pectoris.

As a plaque enlarges, the inner lining of your artery becomes roughened. A tear or rupture in the plaque may cause a blood clot to form. Such a clot can block the flow of blood or break free and plug an artery downstream.

If the flow of blood to a part of your heart is stopped, you'll have a heart attack. If blood flow to a part of your brain stops, a stroke occurs.

High blood cholesterol along with high blood pressure, insulin resistance and obesity are factors that make up metabolic syndrome, a combination of disorders which greatly increases your risk of developing heart disease, stroke or diabetes.
 
The Treatment
Lifestyle changes are the first steps you can take to improve your blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. These include changes in diet, regular exercise and avoiding smoking. If you've made these important lifestyle changes and your total cholesterol, especially your level of LDL cholesterol, remains high, your doctor may recommend prescription medication.
 
Prevention
Improving your blood cholesterol levels reduces your risk of heart disease. Lifestyle changes are your first course of action to improve your blood cholesterol levels. These approaches include:
 
1 Eating a healthy food
These changes in your diet can improve your blood cholesterol levels :
 
Control total fat
Limit all types of fat to no more than 30 percent of your total daily calories.
Limit dietary cholesterol
Your daily limit for cholesterol is 300 milligrams or less than 200 milligrams if you have heart disease. To achieve this goal, limit or avoid meats, egg yolks and whole-milk products.
Eat foods with soluble fiber
Soluble fiber can help lower your total blood cholesterol level. Foods high in soluble fiber include oat bran, oatmeal, beans, peas, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, strawberries and apple pulp.
Eat more fish
Some fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring contain high amounts of a unique type of polyunsaturated fat called omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s may lower your level of triglycerides.
Eat soy products
Eating soy proteins can reduce your levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Eating soy may also raise your level of HDL cholesterol, which may protect you against heart disease.
Reduce sugar intake
This is a way of lowering triglyceride levels.
2 Exercising
Being overweight promotes a high total cholesterol level. Losing weight improves your cholesterol levels. Set up an exercise program to lose weight using these guidelines and your doctor's advice :
 
Choose an aerobic activity
Get involved in activities such as brisk walking, jogging, or bicycling.
Build up the time and frequency of exercising
Gradually work up to exercising for 30 minutes to 45 minutes at least three times a week.
Stick with your exercise program
Schedule a regular time for exercise or take up an activity that keeps you active.
3 Not smoking
If you smoke, stop. If you don't smoke, don't start. Cigarette smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, making them prone to accumulating fatty deposits. If you stop smoking, your HDL cholesterol may return to its former level.
 
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