High Cholesterol | Symptoms Causes and more

High Cholesterol

What does high cholesterol mean?

Cholesterol is a waxy compound present in your blood. The body requires cholesterol for healthy cells however, excessive levels of cholesterol could increase the risk of developing heart disease. When you have high cholesterol the body can build up fat deposits in the blood vessels.

In time, these deposits will grow in size, making it difficult to get sufficient blood flow to your blood vessels. Sometimes, these deposits may be broken suddenly and create an artery clot, which can cause a stroke or heart attack.
The risk of developing high cholesterol is genetic however, it’s usually caused by poor lifestyle choices that can be treated and prevented. A balanced diet along with regular exercise, and occasional medications can reduce the risk of high cholesterol.

Symptoms of high cholesterol

The presence of high cholesterol is not a sign. Blood tests are the sole method to determine if you suffer from it.

When should you see a doctor?

As per the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) The first cholesterol test should take place between 9 and 11 and the screening should repeat every 5 years following the initial screening.
The NHLBI suggests that cholesterol screenings take place every two to three years for men aged 45-65 and women aged 55-65. For those over 65, it is recommended to have cholesterol tests each year.
If the test results aren’t in the right parameters, your doctor may recommend more frequent tests. Your doctor could also recommend regular tests in case you have the family background of high cholesterol or heart disease, as well as other risk factors for example, high blood pressure or diabetes.

Cause of high cholesterol

Cholesterol travels through your blood and is connected to proteins. The combination of cholesterol and proteins is referred to as lipoprotein. There are various kinds of cholesterol, determined by the type of lipoprotein it carries. They include:

  • The low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL is also known as “bad” cholesterol, transports cholesterol particles throughout your body. LDL cholesterol accumulates in the walls in your arteries creating them narrow and hard.
  • HDL stands for High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL). HDL is also known as “good” cholesterol, picks up excess cholesterol and transports it back to the liver.

A lipid profile typically examines triglycerides, which is a kind of blood fat. If you have a high level of triglycerides, it could increase the risk of suffering from heart disease.

Things you can control, for example, being overweight, inactivity, and eating a bad diet are major contributors to unhealthy cholesterol levels and the triglyceride level. Other factors beyond your control could also play a part. For instance, the way you are genetically shaped could make it harder in your body’s efforts to get rid of LDL cholesterol out of your bloodstream or break it down in your liver.

The medical conditions that can lead to unhealthy cholesterol levels are:

The levels of cholesterol can be increased by certain kinds of medicines you’re taking to treat other health issues like:

  • Acne
  • Cancer
  • High blood pressure
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Unusual heart rhythms
  • Organ transplants

Related:

Cholesterol ratio or non-HDL cholesterol: Which is most important?

Risk factors

Factors that increase your risk of having unhealthy cholesterol levels are:

  • Poor diet. Ingestion of too much-saturated fats or trans fats may cause unhealthy cholesterol levels. Saturated fats can be found in the meat that is fatty as well as dairy products that are full-fat. Trans fats are typically present in snack foods and desserts.
  • Obesity. A BMI that is 30 or more can put you at risk for high cholesterol.
    A lack of exercise. Exercise boosts the body’s HDL cholesterol, which is cholesterol that is “good,” cholesterol.
  •  Smoking. cigarettes may reduce the level of HDL which is the “good,” cholesterol.
  • Alcohol. Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can raise your cholesterol levels.
  • Age. Even children as young as unhealthy cholesterol levels, but it’s more prevalent in those who are over 40. As you get older your liver gets less capable of removing LDL cholesterol.

Complications

High cholesterol may cause an unhealthy accumulation of cholesterol as well as different deposits in your arteries (atherosclerosis). This accumulation (plaques) can hinder the flow of blood through your arteries. This may cause complications that include:

  • Chest pain. If the coronary arteries which supply blood to your heart (coronary blood vessels) are damaged by coronary artery disease, you may experience symptoms of chest pain (angina) as well as other signs of coronary arterial disease.
  • Heart attack. If plaques break or tear a blood clot may be formed at the place of rupture blocking the flow of blood, or breaking loose and blocking an arterial vein downstream. If the flow of blood to a part of your heart is stopped and you suffer an attack on your heart.
  • Stroke. Like heart attacks, A stroke happens because a blood clot prevents the flow of blood into a region in your brain.

Also Read: heart and stroke

Treating high cholesterol

The same lifestyle changes for heart health that lower cholesterol levels can also help you prevent from developing high cholesterol at all. To reduce the risk of high cholesterol, you should:

  • A low-salt diet includes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
  • Reduce the number of fats from animals, and utilize healthy fats in moderation.
  • Lose weight and keep an ideal weight
  • Stop smoking
  • You can exercise on any day of the week, for minimum of 30 minutes
  • If you drink alcohol, be careful.
  • Manage stress

Diagnosis

A blood test to determine cholesterol levels — referred to as a lipid panel, or a”lipid profile” generally provides:

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL cholesterol
  • HDL cholesterol
  • Triglycerides, a kind of blood fat

Generally, you’re required to fast, eating no liquids or food other than water for a period of nine to twelve hours prior to your test. Certain cholesterol tests do not require fasting, but you must follow the advice of your physician.

High cholesterol numbers

The United States, cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood. In Canada and a number of European countries, cholesterol levels are determined in millimoles per liter (mmol/L). For interpreting your test results take these general guidelines.

Total cholesterol (the U.S. and a few other countries)Total cholesterol (Canada and most of Europe)Results
Below 200 mg/dLBelow 5.2 mmol/LSuitable
200-239 mg/dL5.2-6.2 mmol/LBorderline high
240 mg/dL and aboveAbove 6.2 mmol/LHigh
Canadian and European guidelines differ little in comparison to U.S. guidelines. The conversions above are based upon U.S. guidelines.
LDL cholesterol (U.S. and a few other countries)LDL cholesterol* (Canada and the majority of Europe)Results
Below 70 mg/dLBelow 1.8 mmol/LThe best option for those suffering from coronary artery diseases — which includes a history of angina, heart attacks, and coronary bypass.
Below 100 mg/dLBelow 2.6 mmol/LThe best option for those who are at risk of developing coronary artery disease or suffer from diabetes. Nearly optimal for those suffering from non-complicated coronary artery disease.
100-129 mg/dL2.6-3.3 mmol/LNear-optimal when there is no coronary arterial disease. A high value if there is a coronary arterial disease.
130-159 mg/dL3.4-4.1 mmol/LBorderline high when there isn’t any coronary arterial disease. The risk is higher if there’s a coronary arterial disease.
160-189 mg/dL4.1-4.9 mmol/LThe highest if there isn’t a coronary arterial disease. Very high when there is an artery blockage.
190 mg/dL and beyondAbove 4.9 mmol/LVery high, most likely indicating an inherited condition.
The Canadian, as well as European guidelines, differ somewhat in comparison to U.S. guidelines. The conversions are built upon U.S. guidelines.
HDL cholesterol (U.S. and a few other countries)HDL cholesterol* (Canada and the majority of Europe)Results
Below 40 mg/dL (men)Below 1.0 mmol/L (men)Poor
Below 50 mg/dL (women)Below 1.3 mmol/L (women)
40-59 mg/dL (men)1.0-1.5 mmol/L (men)Better
50-59 mg/dL (women)1.3-1.5 mmol/L (women)
60 mg/dL and overAbove 1.5 mmol/LBest
The Canadian, as well as European guidelines, differ somewhat in comparison to U.S. guidelines. This conversion is based upon U.S. guidelines.
Triglycerides (the U.S. and a few other countries)Triglycerides* (Canada and the majority of Europe)Results
Below 150 mg/dLBelow 1.7 mmol/LDesirable
150-199 mg/dL1.7-2.2 mmol/LBorderline High
200-499 mg/dL2.3-5.6 mmol/LHigh
500 mg/dL and overAbove 5.6 mmol/LVery High
Canadian and European guidelines differ somewhat with respect to U.S. guidelines. The conversions that are used for these guidelines were based upon U.S. guidelines.

Children and cholesterol tests

For the majority of children, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends a cholesterol test to be taken between 9 and 11. The test should be repeated every five years following that.
In the event that your kid has a family history of early-onset heart disease or individual history of diabetes or obesity, your doctor may suggest frequent or earlier cholesterol tests.

Treatment for high cholesterol

Making lifestyle changes like exercising and eating a balanced diet is the first protection against high cholesterol. However, if you’ve taken these steps and your cholesterol levels are still high, your physician may suggest treatment.

The selection of a medication or combination of drugs is based on a variety of aspects including your personal risk factors such as your age, health, and potential drug-related side effects. The most common choices are:

  • Statins. Statins block a substance that your liver requires to make cholesterol. The liver is able to eliminate cholesterol in your blood. Choices include atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Altoprev), pitavastatin (Livalo), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor).
  • Absorption inhibitors for cholesterol. Your small intestine absorbs the cholesterol you consume and then releases it into your bloodstream. It is a drug called ezetimibe (Zetia) aids in reducing blood cholesterol by limiting the absorption of cholesterol from your diet. Ezetimibe is a drug that can be combined alongside a statin drug.
    Bempedoic acid. This drug is working similarly to statins, however, it has a lower chance to trigger muscles discomfort. Bempedoic acid added (Nexletol) in addition to the statin dose can lower LDL substantially. A combination pill that includes bempedoic acid, as well as ezetimibe (Nexlizet), can also be found.
  • Bile-acid-binding resins. The liver makes cholesterol to create the bile acids that are required to digest food. The drugs cholestyramine (Prevalite) colesevelam (Welchol) and colestipol (Colestid) reduce cholesterol indirectly because they bind to the bile acids. This causes your liver to utilize excess cholesterol in order to create more bile acid, which decreases the amount of cholesterol present in your blood.
  • PCSK9 inhibitors. These medications can assist the liver in absorbing greater amounts of LDL cholesterol. This decreases levels of cholesterol that circulate throughout your body. Alirocumab (Praluent) along with evolocumab (Repatha) could be prescribed for those with a genetic disorder which causes extremely excessive levels of LDL or in those who have a history of coronary disease who are intolerant to statins and other cholesterol medicines. They are injected into the skin once every couple of weeks and cost a lot.

Treatments for high triglycerides

If you are also suffering from high triglycerides and cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe:

  • Fibrates. The medicines such as fenofibrate (Tricor, Fenoglide, others) and gemfibrozil (Lopid) lower the production by your liver of very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol and accelerate the removal of triglycerides in your blood. VLDL cholesterol is mostly composed of triglycerides. Utilizing fibrates along with statins could increase the risk of side effects caused by statins.
  • Niacin. Niacin inhibits the liver’s ability to make LDL or VLDL cholesterol. But it’s not a supplement that offers advantages over statins. Niacin is also associated with liver damage and strokes, which is why most doctors recommend it for those who aren’t able to use statins.
  • Omega-3 supplements for fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids supplements can reduce triglycerides. They can be purchased with a prescription or on the counter. If you opt to take supplements that are available over the counter, you must seek the approval of your physician. Omega-3 fatty acids supplements can affect other medicines you’re taking.

Tolerance can vary

The tolerance to medications differs in each individual. The most frequent side effects of statins include muscle pains and damaged muscles, reversible confusion and memory loss, and high blood sugar levels. If you decide to try cholesterol medications, your physician might suggest liver function tests to assess the effects of the medication on your liver.

Children and cholesterol treatments

Exercise and diet are the most effective initial treatment for children aged 2 and up who suffer from high cholesterol or are overweight. Children aged 10 and above with extremely high cholesterol levels could be prescribed drugs to lower cholesterol levels including statins.

Lifestyle and home solutions to home

  • Lifestyle changes are vital for lowering cholesterol levels.
    Lose extra pounds. Losing weight can aid in lowering cholesterol levels.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Concentrate on foods that are plant-based that include vegetables, fruits along whole-grain grains. Avoid trans and saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats, such as those found in the oils of canola and olive is a better choice. Avocados, nuts, and oily fish are also sources of healthy fats.
  • Exercise regularly. If your doctor is in agreement begin to work towards minimum 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 times per week.
  • Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, you must find ways to stop.

You are preparing for your appointment

If you’re an adult and haven’t been getting regular cholesterol check-ups, schedule appointments with your physician. Here are some tips to help you prepare to make an appointment.

What you can do

When you book your appointment, make sure to ask what you’ll need to be doing ahead of time. To test your cholesterol it is likely that you must refrain from eating or drinking anything else than water for a period of nine to 12 hours prior to your blood test.

Make a list of

  • Your symptoms, if they are present
  • Important personal information, such as the family background of high cholesterol strokes, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes
  • Every medication, vitamin, or supplement you take including dosages

Questions you can ask your doctor

If you have high cholesterol, some essential questions to ask your doctor are:

  • What tests should I take?
  • What’s the most effective treatment?
  • How often should I have to have a blood test for cholesterol?
  • Are any brochures or other printed materials I could get? Which websites would you recommend?

Do not hesitate to ask any other questions.

What can you be expecting from your doctor?

Your doctor may be able to ask you several questions, including:

  • What is your diet?
  • How many hours of exercise do you need to get?
  • How much alcohol do you take in?
  • Smoke? Have you been with other smokers?
  • When was the last time you had a cholesterol test? What was the result?

Related:

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