With so much talk about heart disease and cholesterol, many people may be wondering, what exactly is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a viscous lipid that is created by the liver. It can also be found in animal-based foods such as meat, milk, eggs and cheese.
High Cholesterol Symptoms:
High cholesterol generally has no symptoms. The only way to really detect very high cholesterol is to get blood work done at your doctors office. We recommend having your cholesterol tested in your early 20’s and repeating every 5 years or so to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Fruits, grains and vegetables are foods that are naturally free of cholesterol. Your body utilizes cholesterol to create vitamin D, cell walls, bile salts and certain hormones. On average, the liver makes 1,000 milligrams of cholesterol every day. That is more than enough for your body’s needs, so it is not necessary to consume excess cholesterol in your diet.
Cholesterol gets moved through the bloodstream through proteins. When cholesterol joins up with a protein, it forms what is called a lipoprotein. For humans, the important lipoproteins are low-density and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL is most often described as “bad” cholesterol, while HDL is considered to be “good” cholesterol.
This is because LDL cholesterol clogs up the blood vessels, which makes it difficult for blood to flow properly. HDL helps to move cholesterol out of the blood vessels and transports it back to the liver. The liver then routes the excess cholesterol out of the body.
People who do consume excess amounts of dietary cholesterol can suffer from very serious health problems as a result. High LDL levels cause cholesterol to build up on the arterial walls. This build up eventually hardens and turns into plaque. As more plaque forms, the artery becomes narrower and blood is not able to flow like it should. When this happens, the person has developed atherosclerosis.
Coronary Artery Disease:
When a person develops atherosclerosis in their coronary arteries, the condition is known as coronary artery disease. This drastically increases a person’s risk of experiencing a heart attack. In the event that atherosclerosis occurs inside of the blood vessels that transport blood to the brain, this increases the likelihood that the person will suffer from a stroke. Atherosclerosis can affect the blood vessels that supply blood to other important organs as well, causing severe damage and organ failure.
There are many lifestyle factors that determine the level of LDL in your blood. The 4 factors for increased LDL include:
1.) Excess Weight
People carrying excess weight usually have higher levels of LDL cholesterol.
2.) Family History
You are more likely to suffer from heart disease or high cholesterol if it tends to run in your family. Some people’s livers naturally make more cholesterol than others. Coupled with excess cholesterol from dietary sources, this can create serious complications.
3.) Dietary Habits
If you eat a lot of food that contains high amounts of cholesterol such as trans fat and saturated fat, you will increase your LDL cholesterol levels as well as your likelihood to develop heart disease.
The likelihood of developing high cholesterol increases with age when combined with the other lifestyle factors.
To help increase your HDL levels and lower your risk of heart disease, it is recommended that you make time for daily physical activity. Being active has been scientifically shown to decrease bad cholesterol.
Making positive dietary changes and maintaining a healthy weight will also greatly improve your cholesterol levels. According to guidelines created by the American Heart Association, you should eat not more than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol daily.