Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like element required for many essential bodily functions, such as building healthy cells, and producing vitamin D as well as certain hormones. However, high levels of cholesterol increase the chances of contracting heart disease. Cholesterol readings about 240mg/dL or more are considered high, with readings of 200mg/dL or less are said to be desirable in adults. Everyone should be careful and focus on maintaining desirable cholesterol levels of about 200mg/dL or less in your body.
Types of Cholesterol
There are mainly two kinds of lipoprotein that transmit cholesterol to and from the body's cells. High-density lipoprotein, commonly referred to as HDL, and low-density lipoprotein, also known as LDL. Low-density lipoprotein is sometimes called bad cholesterol since it leads to the formation of fatty deposits in the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis. This condition constricts the arteries, which increases the chances of a heart attack, peripheral artery disease, or stroke.
On the other hand, high-density lipoprotein is considered good cholesterol. Health experts argue that HDL functions like a scavenger in your body. It carries the bad cholesterol, LDL, far from your arteries to your liver where the bad cholesterol is excreted as waste. However, this does not get rid of LDL completely - HDL transports about one-fourth or one-third of the cholesterol. A healthy HDL level shields you from stroke and heart disease, while low HDL levels contribute to heart disease risk.
High Levels of Cholesterol and Heart Attack
High levels of cholesterol in your body are hazardous. The cholesterol may lead to the accumulation of deposits in the blood vessels, known as plaque. In turn, these build-ups limit the circulation of blood through the arteries, thus leading to severe complications. An example of such a complication is a heart attack. Due to the constrictions of arteries from the cholesterol, a blood clot may occur at a plaque rupture point. The clot blocks blood flow to your heart, leading to a heart attack. Stroke is also a complication caused by cholesterol. Like in a heart attack, a blood clot may block blood from flowing into the brain, thereby causing a stroke. Besides, cholesterol interference with your arteries results in severe chest pains or even coronary artery disease.
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How to Detect High Levels of Cholesterol
There are no evident signs or symptoms of high levels of cholesterol. You cannot identify any changes in your body that can be directly linked to high cholesterol levels. The only way to determine the level of cholesterol in your body is by taking a blood test. The best way to be sure is by having regular check-ups with your doctor. The blood test is simple and easy, so there is no need to worry.
Factors that may increase bad cholesterol in your body
- Obesity: Having a greater body mass index (BMI) increases the risks of high levels of cholesterol in the body. Focus on maintaining a low BMI to reduce the chances of increased cholesterol levels.
- Poor eating habits: A healthy diet is key to a healthy body. Consuming saturated fats present in animal products and trans fats present in most processed foods, like baked cookies and microwaved popcorn, increases cholesterol levels. Some foods also contain high cholesterol, like red meat - so try to eat alternatives instead, such as lean meat.
- Diabetes: An increase in blood sugar levels greatly contributes to an increase in cholesterol. It results in risky cholesterol known as very-low-density lipoprotein, abbreviated as VLDL. High blood sugar also leads to less HDL cholesterol.
- Age: As you advance in age, there are a lot of changes in your body chemistry. This, in turn, increases your risk of high levels of cholesterol. For example, when you advance in age, your liver becomes less effective, thus removing less LDL cholesterol.
- Smoking: Smoking destroys the lining of your blood vessels. This, in turn, makes them more vulnerable to collect fatty deposits. Additionally, cigarette smoking lowers the level of HDL, so studies have found that quitting increases levels of the good cholesterol.
- Lack of exercise: Exercising stimulates the level of HDL in your body. It also increases particles that build up bad cholesterol or LDL, making them less dangerous. Lack of exercise hinders these great benefits. Not only does exercising help in avoiding high levels of cholesterol, but it also protects you from other diseases.
7 Ways to Manage High levels of Cholesterol
As much as there are many risks of high cholesterol levels, it can be easily managed by following some of the lifestyle tips below, as well as taking any medication recommended by a doctor.
1. Managing stress
Persistent stress is very unhealthy for your body and has been linked to high cholesterol levels. Do this by managing your stress levels, try to let go of things beyond your control, and be at peace with those around you. Make a habit of taking some time off from your daily routine to have fun activities that will distract your mind and help you avoid stress.
2. Quit smoking
As discussed, smoking increases the risk of high levels of cholesterol. Therefore, it is wise to avoid smoking if you have not started and quit if you are a smoker to reduce the chances of high levels of cholesterol.
3. Drink less alcohol
If you must drink alcohol, take moderate amounts. This will help you reduce and manage high levels of cholesterol in your body.
4. Regular exercise
Exercising is very beneficial to your body. When you exercise regularly, for example, about 150 minutes each week, you boost HDL cholesterol, known as good cholesterol. You also reduce the harm caused by LDL, the bad cholesterol, by managing its particle size.
5. Keep a healthy weight.
Watch your weight to manage high levels of cholesterol. You can do this by exercising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This means you must be careful about what you eat and avoid any unhealthy habits like smoking.
6. Reduce consumption of animal fats
Animal fats are rich in cholesterol, which increases cholesterol levels in your body when you consume them. Limit the amount of animal fat you consume in a day to maintain low cholesterol levels and manage higher levels of cholesterol.
7. Have a healthy meal plan
Consume more of whole grains and less unhealthy processed foods. Add fruits and vegetables to your diet and use less salt in meals to help manage cholesterol levels.