About High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is not essentially bad. This is a waxy substance that actually helps the body in many ways. It is necessary to build healthy cells, create hormones, and synthesize vitamin D. This is also necessary for digestion.
However, having too much of this fatty matter in the system can be detrimental. If there are high levels of cholesterol in the system, fatty deposits may grow, making it difficult for the blood to flow efficiently to the arteries. These deposits can break and turn into clots.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that there are nearly 94 million adults in the U.S. who have total cholesterol levels above 200 mg/dl. From 2015 to 2018 alone, about 12% of the population had elevated total cholesterol. Having high cholesterol can put people at greater risk of stroke, the fifth most common cause of death, and heart disease, which is the leading cause of mortality.
High Cholesterol Causes
A lot of things can lead to high levels of cholesterol. Here are some of the common causes that have been identified:
- Poor diet – This is among the main causes of high cholesterol. Too much eating of foods that are high in fats and cholesterol can be extremely harmful. These foods are meat, full-fat dairy, and butter.
- Heredity – Genes that have been passed down to children may increase the risk or cause high cholesterol. Familial hypercholesterolemia is a rare genetic condition that elevates the levels of cholesterol.
- Lack of exercise – If physical activity is enough, it is faster for the body to expel bad cholesterol.
- Smoking and drinking – Smoking does not only damage the blood vessels and arteries but can also elevate low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. With alcohol, it can be rebuilt into triglycerides and cholesterol in the liver.
- Medical conditions – Some medical conditions that can cause or worsen high levels of cholesterol are:
- Chronic kidney disease
Symptoms of High Cholesterol
Typically, having high cholesterol levels has no signs or symptoms. Thus, this is referred to as a “silent” condition. Most people with high cholesterol do not realize that they have the condition unless it has developed into a more serious complication.
Complications of elevated cholesterol levels can lead to the following manifestations:
- Chest pain
- Discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, arm, or upper belly
- Unusual tiredness
- Sudden numbness or weakness
- Trouble speaking
- Loss of balance
- Sudden vision changes
Since most people who have high levels of cholesterol are unlikely to notice that they have the disease, a routine check-up is important. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends routine cholesterol screenings every one to two years, especially for those who are at risk and those above the age of 45 for men and 55 for women. Maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle is also a very effective way to prevent this condition.
How to Treat High Cholesterol?
Changes in your lifestyle can greatly improve your cholesterol levels. Here are some changes you can make while taking your cholesterol-lowering drugs:
- Eat heart-healthy foods – When eating, make sure to consume foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and avoid those with high trans fats and saturated fats. You should also increase your intake of soluble fiber.
- Increase physical activity – It has been proven that 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week, can help with cholesterol management. This includes playing sports, riding a bike, and taking brisk walks.
- Lose weight – Being overweight is associated with having high cholesterol. Make an effort to intentionally lose weight so that it will be easier to manage your health.
- Avoid smoking and drink moderately – Quitting smoking can significantly increase your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the same as drinking alcohol in moderation.
If changes in lifestyle are not sufficient to lower your levels of cholesterol, your physician may prescribe high-cholesterol medication. Here are some of the cholesterol medications:
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitor
- Bempedoic acid
- Bempedoic acid-ezetimibe
- Combination calcium channel blocker and statin
- Combination cholesterol absorption inhibitor and statin
- Omega-3 fatty acids