Having problems with high cholesterol? Are you in a dilemma when to see a doctor, do you need medication or is it just enough to change your lifestyle…? We are sure this guide on cholesterol will help with all of your questions. We provided everything you should know about cholesterol.
Also read: 8 Foods That Can Lower Blood Cholesterol
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat, a molecule similar to a fatty acid molecule, which is essential for normal and healthy functioning. It is present in every cell, it is an ingredient of blood and the human body. We cannot live without cholesterol because it is required for many metabolic processes and metabolism.
Without cholesterol, the human brain cannot function. It is essential in the process of sex hormone production, so without it there would be no testosterone, estrogen or adrenal hormone, and it is an irreplaceable participant in the process of bile acid production.
Cholesterol is created in the body, all cells can make it, and the main place where it is made is the liver. This vital substance is also brought in by food, and if a lot of food is introduced into the body, the production in the cells decreases.
In order for cholesterol to transport by blood from the liver or digestive system to every cell and tissue in the body, it fuses with certain proteins into lipoproteins. The most important types of lipoproteins are LDL and HDL particles.
So, cholesterol is a very important substance for life, it is good and necessary, but as is usually not the case when there is something too much so its not too good. Therefore, you should distinguish good HDL from bad LDL cholesterol, whose increased blood levels create a risk of cardiovascular disease.
What is LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol)?
LDL particles deposit cholesterol in organs, tissues, and blood vessel walls, and LDL accumulation can lead to atherosclerosis and narrowing of the arteries, which can increase the risk of heart and stroke.
Namely, if there is excess cholesterol in the body, the body cannot use all of it. Therefore, cholesterol remains in the blood and is gradually deposited on the walls of blood vessels.
Accumulations (plaques) gradually narrow the diameter of the artery and reduce its elasticity, causing the development of cardiovascular disease. Besides LDL cholesterol, the culprits are also the dangerous substances that we bring into the body like nicotine, and damage caused by high blood pressure.
What is HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol)?
HDL cholesterol are high density particles and its high levels are good because it is protective cholesterol. It is preferable that the HDL be as high as possible because its level benefits the overall health of the cardiovascular system.
HDL particles act as cleansers, bind to themselves and transport excess cholesterol from various tissues and blood vessels to the liver for further metabolism.
What are triglycerides?
Triglycerides are a type of lipid, that is, fat stored in fat cells of the body, compounds of alcohol glycerol and fatty acids. They are also introduced into the body by food and are the main constituent of animal and vegetable fats and oils.
Usually, high levels of triglycerides in the body are accompanied by high levels of LDL cholesterol, and low levels of HDL, that is, good cholesterol, although this may not be the rule.
Elevated triglyceride levels are a risk for atherosclerosis, but not to the extent that dangerous cholesterol levels are dangerous. Often, the same person also has increased cholesterol and elevated blood triglycerides.
What is total cholesterol?
The value of total cholesterol does not really say much about the potential risk of developing the disease, but rather the ratio of total to HDL cholesterol should be looked at. This means that if HDL cholesterol is high, then total cholesterol will be higher. However, if total cholesterol is 8 and HDL is only 1, then the ratio is 8:1=8, which is bad.
It is good if the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL is less than 6. If the total cholesterol is even lower, the better. For example, if total cholesterol is 8 and HDL is 2, the ratio is 8:2, so 4, which is very good.
What are the normal (desirable) values for cholesterol?
The recommended total blood cholesterol value should be less than 5.0 mmol/L. In doing so, LDL cholesterol should not exceed 3.0 mmol/L, while HDL cholesterol should be as higher. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol indicate a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Its lowest recommended value is 1.0 mmol/L. Levels below 1 (men) and 1.3 (women) are poor and are indicative of metabolic syndrome.
How important is physical activity for cholesterol levels?
Regular physical activity is also an important factor in lowering LDL cholesterol. Research has confirmed that targeted aerobic activity for at least half an hour a day, such as running, swimming, cycling, or at least walking faster, can lower LDL cholesterol by about five to ten percent.
To achieve better health results and reduce bad cholesterol, light activities such as walking or housework such as vacuuming are not sufficient. Anaerobic sports such as weight lifting in the gym have a very modest effect on bad cholesterol.
Can cholesterol alone be lower by changing lifestyle?
Cholesterol levels are highly variable and can be greatly affected by eating habits and physical activity. Nutrition plays an important role in lowering LDL cholesterol.
The Mediterranean diet with many vegetables and fruits, foods with a high content of soluble fiber and phytosterols is especially beneficial. Also, more frequent consumption of fish instead of meat and healthy fats such as olive oil is important.
Daily fat intake should not exceed 60 grams. Foods that should also be included in the regular diet are nuts, avocados, supplements containing psyllium fiber and soy.
What rules apply before drawing blood?
For the sake of relevance, the following should be considered when determining blood cholesterol levels:
- Avoid intense physical activity 48 hours before blood sampling, do not take alcohol
- Eat normal meals 24 hours before blood sampling, but do not overfat
- Do not eat any food, drink alcohol, coffee or smoke 12 hours before sampling, you can only drink water
- You should delay blood drawing by at least eight weeks if you have an acute heart attack, an acute bacterial or viral infection, have severe trauma or surgery
Can I have surgery with high cholesterol?
Elevated cholesterol levels are not a contraindication for any surgery. However, this applies if the disorder does not condition another disease, which would then entail an increased risk for surgery or general anesthesia.
Should treatment be discontinued if values normalize?
Malnutrition is very often the cause of a pathologic lipidogram. Therefore, patients with medication and lifestyle changes can achieve normal cholesterol levels, which they can maintain with diet without medication.
However, it is most often necessary to take the drug permanently because after stopping the drug, the cholesterol values return to the old one. Of course, in patients who have had a cardiovascular incident, such as a heart attack, taking these drugs should be permanently independent of the cholesterol finding and when the desired values are reached.
What is blood cholesterol deficiency?
Any deviation in blood fat from normal limits is not good. It is not good if there is too much of it, or if there is too little.
With low cholesterol levels, a person may feel bad. Research has shown that low cholesterol has the effect of reducing serotonin, which is responsible for good mood. This can lead to depression and aggression.
There has been an association between a low cholesterol level and a higher incidence of colon cancer and liver damage.
How does elevated cholesterol affect blood vessels?
Lipoproteins of different densities are involved in the production and transport of cholesterol. These are: VLDL (very low-density lipoproteins), LDL (low-density), HDL (high-density).
LDL cholesterol is responsible for the negative effect on blood vessels. It is constantly transmitted to the cells of the body and when it reaches the artery wall, cholesterol is deposited on it. Further deposition of calcium and triglycerides produces a solid mass called atherosclerotic plaque. The gradual enlargement of the plaque narrows the lumen of the arteries resulting in a poorer supply of tissue to the blood and oxygen (ischemia).
It is important to know that HDL returns cholesterol to the liver from the tissue. It is a protective lipoprotein, that is, unlike LDL, it is desirable that its concentration in the blood is higher. With elevated HDL findings, the risk of vascular disease is lower.
What is the relationship between sex, age and cholesterol value?
Men and women who have premature menopause are more likely to have high cholesterol levels. Estrogen (female sex hormone) generally lowers blood cholesterol levels, while androgens (male sex hormones) increase LDL cholesterol levels. Generative women, before menopause, rarely have to worry about cholesterol levels.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is less important than high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol for women of all ages and for men over sixty-five. This means that it is more important for the majority of the population to have high HDL than low LDL.
Atherosclerotic disease begins in early childhood and progresses slowly for decades. The frequency and severity of the disease, and therefore the age at which it is likely to cause tissue or organ damage, depend on many factors. Some of those factors are constitutional and therefore invariable. Others are acquired and subject to control.
Between the ages of 40 and 60, there is more than a fivefold increase in the incidence of myocardial infarction. Men are much more susceptible to developing atherosclerosis than women. This difference no longer applies after menopause. Then, the incidence of myocardial infarction in both sexes is equal in the seventh or eighth decade of life.
What does high cholesterol do to our body?
The most dangerous consequence of hypercholesterolemia is the deposition of excess cholesterol in the body into the blood vessels. Especially the arteries (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerotic accumulations lead to narrowing of blood vessels and a decrease in their elasticity. This consequently to decreases blood flow and increases arterial blood pressure. Atherosclerosis is an immediate risk factor for the occurrence of many vascular diseases such as angina, heart attack and stroke, kidney disease, diseases of the arteries of the extremities.
When to start treatment for high cholesterol?
People who do not have risk factors, but LDL cholesterol levels exceed the limit, shouldn’t lower their cholesterol levels with medication. A diet for elevated cholesterol can be very effective. However, only a lifestyle change, with the introduction of regular exercise (half an hour to one hour a day), will have a beneficial effect on blood fat values and also on quality of life in general.
Treatment of high cholesterol levels with medication is necessary in anyone with atherosclerotic heart and blood vessel disease (secondary prevention), in those with familial hypercholesterolemia, and in some individuals without obvious disease (primary prevention) if general measures are not effective. Patients with extremely high LDL values (LDL> 5.17 mmol/L) or calculated high cardiovascular risk are treated with hypolipemics from the beginning of treatment with general measures.
It is important to emphasize that it is important to make additional laboratory diagnostics and exclude some other metabolic diseases before deciding to administer medications to patients with high cholesterol levels and at low cardiovascular risk. Cholesterol will normalize in many patients by treating the underlying disease.
Is high cholesterol inheritable?
There are five types of hereditary disorders of body fat metabolism (hyperlipoproteinemia) that have a different fat profile in the blood and carry different health risks.
This inherited disorder results in accelerated atherosclerosis and early death, usually due to a heart attack. People with this hereditary form have high levels of LDL cholesterol in their blood.
One in six men with the disorder experience a heart attack by the age of 40, and two in three to 60 years of age. Women with this disorder are also at increased risk, but the risk arises later. One in two women with the disorder will have a heart attack by the age of 55.
What if cholesterol is raised during pregnancy?
Cholesterol is essential for the synthesis of female sex hormones, estrogens and progesterone. They are vitally important for maintaining pregnancy and for the development of the fetus (brain and limbs). Therefore, elevated cholesterol levels in pregnancy are not a problem that requires treatment.
Cholesterol levels in pregnancy normally rise 25-50%, mostly HDL (good cholesterol). However, it is recommended to maintain a balanced diet in pregnancy. It consists of fruits, vegetables, fiber and exercise.
In rare cases, elevated cholesterol in pregnancy can lead to an increase in the blood pressure of pregnant women. On the contrary, lowered cholesterol can lead to premature birth.
Can elevated cholesterol cause erectile dysfunction?
The effect of elevated cholesterol on coronary blood vessels is well known, but the link between elevated cholesterol and erectile dysfunction (ED) is less well known.
Elevated LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) causes deposits to build up inside the arteries. These plaques reduce their diameter and impede the flow of arterial blood into the penis. As these are very thin arteries thinner than the coronary arteries, each narrowing reduces the flow exponentially. Erectile dysfunction with elevated cholesterol, especially in younger patients, suggests possible coronary artery problems in the future.
A dozen published studies have shown that taking statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs) can not only statistically reduce the risk of heart attack, but also improve potency. Therefore, taking statins with a proper cholesterol level will not improve potency.
Does elevated cholesterol affect eye health and how?
Increased blood cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations are called hyperlipidemia. In addition to the well-known systemic effects on blood vessels in the body such as increased risk of developing atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, hyperlipidemia can also be reflected in the eyes and be an early warning sign for the patient.