Cholesterol is found in body cells. It is made up of fats (lipids). The body produces cholesterol, but it can also be found in food. It is transported around the body through the bloodstream in packages called lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are made up of lipids (fats) on the inside and proteins on the outside. The body needs cholesterol for the following;
Production of certain hormones
Making of vitamin D
Building the structure of cell walls
Making up of digestive bile acids in the intestine
Excess cholesterol builds up in arteries. This condition is called atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries. It leads to some heart and blood flow problems. The buildup of cholesterol makes the arteries narrower, thus making it difficult for blood to flow. This, in turn, leads to dangerous blood clots and inflammation that tend to cause heart attacks and strokes. This is because of the unavailability of oxygen for the heart which is transported by blood.
Types of cholesterol
Cholesterol is classified based on the kind of lipoprotein it is contained in. There are two major types based on their lipoproteins.
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL)
This type is referred to as the ‘bad’ cholesterol. A high level of LDL generates in a cholesterol buildup in the arteries.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL)
This type is called the ‘good’ cholesterol because it is transported from other parts of the body to the liver which removes it from the body.
Causes and Effects of high LDL
A condition in which there is excess cholesterol in the body, that is, more than required is called high cholesterol. This condition has no sign or symptom as earlier stated. People with this condition have a high risk of heart disease. Increased levels of LDL cholesterol and reduced levels of HDL cholesterol in the blood increases the risk of heart disease.
Heart disease is a condition in which plaque (cholesterol, calcium and other particles found in the blood) builds up inside the arteries. Over time, the plaque gets hard and limits the flow of blood containing oxygen to the heart. If a plaque breaks open, it causes a blood clot on its surface. A large clot can almost entirely or completely stop the flow of blood to the heart. If this happens, a heart attack may occur.
Lowering your cholesterol may reduce, slow down or even inhibit the formulation of plaques in the arteries. It may also impede the occurrence of subsequent conditions.
Cholesterol levels can be increased when one consumes;
Foods with natural cholesterol such as animal foods, meat and cheese
Saturated fats found in some meats, processed foods, dairy products and baked goods
Trans fats contained in some fried foods
One could also get high cholesterol from being overweight or obese.
Age also plays a role in increasing LDL as cholesterol level tends to rise from 20.
Genetics are also a huge factor, especially when members of the family are suffering from the condition.
Other conditions that cause abnormal cholesterol levels include:
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Underactive thyroid gland
Ingesting of progestins, corticosteroids and anabolic steroids
Treatment and Management
A blood test is done to check your cholesterol level. The test is called a lipid panel, and it measures all the fats in your blood as well as LDL and HDL.
The first medical prescription for high LDL is a change of lifestyle. However, if this does not work, drugs that lower lipids such as statins, may be prescribed.
A person with high LDL should try to avoid these foods;
Commercial baked goods
Too much salt and sugar
Some things that will help to lower high cholesterol levels are:
Eating diets rich in fruits and vegetables, low-fat or non-fat dairy products, whole grains and fish
Being active most times
Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight
It is not easy to undergo these changes. Hence, it is advised to begin small. Adding a fruit and vegetable or two to your diet each day is a good start. Adding short walks and few workout routines go a long way as well