Impact of Cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol, namely HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol). Both these types of cholesterol are present in the human body and are used by the body to perform certain important functions such as the production of bile, hormones, and vitamin D, an essential vitamin which absorbs calcium and promotes bone health.
High levels of HDL protect the heart and blood vessels by reducing LDL cholesterol in the blood. This good cholesterol (HDL) also has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-clot effects on heart and blood vessels.
While the liver produces the required amounts of cholesterol for our body, cholesterol also enters our bloodstream through the foods we eat. While some foods are HDL friendly, certain foods which are high in fat and oils increase levels of LDL. In short, the intake of unhealthy foods can increase bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol levels.
Low HDL levels cause the build-up of LDL in the bloodstream, and the excess cholesterol gets deposited into the arteries. This, in turn, can increase our risk of developing several health problems.
Related: Truth About LDL & HDL Cholesterol
What causes high cholesterol?
There are several factors which could lead to increased and unhealthy levels of cholesterol in the body. The most common factors leading to high cholesterol are as follows:
- Intake of fatty & oily foods
- Intake of cigarette smoke & alcohol
- Lack of exercise
- Intake of harmful drugs
- Overdose of medications
- Inheritance of the health disorder through genetics
- Obesity or being overweight
- Other health disorders (diabetes or hypertension)
Read More: Main Causes of High Cholesterol
Warning signs of high cholesterol
While the liver secretes sufficient amounts of cholesterol into our bloodstream for the body to carry out its required functions, the above mentioned reasons lead to increased levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) in the blood. When there is too much cholesterol in the blood, our body tends to deposit the excess cholesterol into the arteries. Arteries are a muscular walled tubes, which perform the function of providing blood to the heart and all the other parts of the human body.
However, when excess cholesterol is deposited into these arteries, it tends to block and prevent the proper flow of blood to the heart and the rest of the body, which puts one at risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke. Therefore, while high cholesterol itself does have any particular symptoms, the narrowing of the arteries caused due to blockages could depict certain early symptoms of a heart attack or stroke. The warning signs of a heart attack or stroke are as follows:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Discomfort in the upper body
- Dizziness or loss of balance
Learn More: Symptoms of High Cholesterol
Risks of high cholesterol
High cholesterol is a dangerous health disorder with even more serious side effects. As mentioned above, as the LDL levels in the body rise, the body is unable to get rid of the excess cholesterol and thus begins to deposit the excess cholesterol into the arteries. This in turn has diverse side effects on the body. The risks associated with high levels of cholesterol are as follows:
- Coronary heart disease
- Heart attack
- Blood clots
As the bad cholesterol levels rise and are deposited into the arteries the may combine with other substances in the blood and result in the build-up of harmful plaque in the arteries. This condition is known as atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. This plaque causes blockages in the artery pipes and obstructs proper blood flow. If left untreated this plaque can continue to grow and cause the arteries to harden and become prone to breakage.
A heart attack occurs when the heart stops receiving oxygen. It also marks the death of a heart muscle, which has died due to a lack of sufficient supply of blood and oxygen. Coronary arteries are the arteries which supply blood directly to the heart. However, as plaque builds up in these arteries the blood flow to the heart gets restricted. As a result, one may often experience chest pain or even suffer heart failure resulting in a heart attack.
Apart from blocking out the blood and oxygen supply to the heart, plaque can also block the oxygen supply to the brain, resulting in a stroke. Due to a lack of oxygen the brain cells begin to die and symptoms of weakness, slurring of speech, blurred sight, and paralysis are witnessed.
How to lower high cholesterol
It is important to keep in mind that to regulate and lower high cholesterol, it is necessary to regulate both the LDL as well as HDL levels. Cholesterol levels can easily be checked through a normal blood test. Also, your HDL levels should read as 60 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or above and the LDL levels should be below 130 mg/dl. If your LDL levels are higher than the normal recommended readings, that means you have high cholesterol.
So if you lead an unhealthy lifestyle or are constantly consuming unhealthy food items, you are putting yourself at a high risk of suffering not only from high cholesterol, but also the serious health complications which come with it. So here are a few simple modifications you could make to your diet or lifestyle habits, to lower high cholesterol and protect yourself against unwanted health risks.
- Cut down on your intake of high fat, fried, and oily foods
- Include fiber-rich foods into your diet
- Detoxify your body by drinking vegetable juices
- Add healthy spices such as haldi into your diet
- Perform some form of exercise, such as brisk walking daily
- Try taking up a sport such as football or badminton
- Consume Ayurvedic herbs such as Tulsi or Neem
- Include more fruits and vegetables into your diet
If you suffer from other health disorders such as diabetes or hypertension, this could further increase your risk of suffering from high cholesterol. Therefore, it is important to get yourself properly treated for your health problems, by taking appropriate medications and following the right diet.
Also, remember that while the factors leading to high cholesterol are quite common, the health risks caused by cholesterol are life-threatening. Therefore, the best way to treat it and stay safe from high cholesterol is by making the necessary lifestyle and diet changes.