High cholesterol can affect anyone. Usually, this happens because of an unhealthy lifestyle. Learn about the following risk factors and how to prevent them to avoid complications of the disease.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance in the blood that is needed by the body. We need cholesterol to build healthy cells. However, cholesterol levels that are too much or too high can increase the risk of various diseases.
High cholesterol causes the deposition of fat in the blood vessels. This makes the blood flow does not flow smoothly. In some cases, these deposits can also rupture suddenly, forming clots that cause a heart attack or stroke.
High cholesterol can be inherited in families, but often occurs because of a bad lifestyle. Here are the facts you need to know about this condition.
Types of cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol in our body, namely LDL and HDL.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol”. It carries cholesterol into the arteries. If LDL cholesterol levels are too high, it can form high “walls” in the arteries.
These walls are also known as cholesterol plaques. This plaque can narrow arteries, restrict blood flow, and increase the risk of blood clots. If a blood clot blocks an artery in the heart or brain, it can lead to dangerous conditions such as a heart attack or stroke.
On the other hand, there is high-density lipoprotein (HDL) called “good cholesterol”. This type of cholesterol can help return LDL to the liver and eventually excreted in the body, that way, cholesterol will not accumulate in the arteries.
If you have normal HDL cholesterol levels, it can reduce your risk of blood flow blockage, heart disease, and stroke.
Symptoms of high cholesterol
In many cases, high cholesterol is a “silent condition”. That is, it is less likely to cause any symptoms. People don’t realize they have high cholesterol until a serious complication such as a heart attack or stroke occurs.
Therefore, it is important to check cholesterol levels regularly. Especially if you are not young anymore.
Several factors can increase your risk of having high cholesterol, including:
- Poor diet: Eating too many foods that contain saturated fat or trans fat can increase cholesterol levels. Saturated fats are usually found in meat and dairy-based foods. Meanwhile, trans fats are found in unhealthy snacks and sugary foods.
- Obesity: Having a body mass index (BMI) above 30 increases the risk of high cholesterol.
- Lack of exercise: Exercise is known to increase levels of HDL or good cholesterol in the body. Therefore, if the exercise that the body needs is not met, then what happens is that LDL actually increases.
- Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption: Smoking and alcohol consumption are known to lower HDL levels.
- Age: Although young people can also have unhealthy cholesterol, it is more common in people over 40. As we age, our liver begins to lose its ability to clear LDL cholesterol.
- Certain health conditions: There are certain health conditions that cause unhealthy cholesterol such as kidney disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, lupus and hypothyroidism.
- Medications: Cholesterol levels can also be worsened by certain types of medications taken to treat health problems.
Without treatment, high cholesterol can make plaque build up in the arteries. Over time, plaque can block arteries and lead to a condition called atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a serious condition. That can restrict blood flow and increase the risk of life-threatening blood clots.
Atherosclerosis can lead to life-threatening complications, such as:
- Heart attack
- Angina or chest pain
- High blood pressure
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Chronic kidney disease
How to prevent
Lifestyle changes can help prevent mommies from having high cholesterol in the first place. Here’s what can be done:
- Eat low-salt foods
- Choose fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Fish and other foods that contain omega-3 are also known to lower LDL levels
- Limit foods with saturated fat and trans fat
- Lose excess weight
- Quit smoking
- 30 minutes of exercise per day
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Manage stress