Description of High cholesterol
Cholesterol is a type of fat in the blood which is essential for healthy growth and development. However, if the levels of this fat increase beyond the requirement of the body, it can be harmful. The body usually makes all the cholesterol it needs from the food we eat daily.
Causes and Risk Factors
There are different types of cholesterol depending upon the type of protein carrier molecule to which they are attached. They are:
1. Low density lipoproteins (LDL): The ‘bad cholesterol’ as they carry the fats, depositing them in the arteries and making them narrow and hard.
2. High density lipoproteins (HDL): The ‘good cholesterol’ which picks up the extra fat and carries them to the liver without depositing it in the arteries.
There are a number of risk factors which can predispose people to high cholesterol in their blood such as:
Lifestyle/alterable risk factors include,
1. High fat diet: Eating fatty foods which are of animal origin and have high amounts of trans fats. Foods such as full-fat dairy and meat are also rich in cholesterol.
2. Obesity: Having a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 30 increases the risk.
3. Large waist circumference: A waist circumference of more than 40 inches in a man and more than 35 inches in a woman puts them at a greater risk.
4. Lack of physical exercise
Unalterable risk factors include,
2. Blood pressure
3. Polycystic ovarian disease
5. Underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
Signs and Symptoms
Having high cholesterol does not present with any signs and symptoms, but puts a person at a higher risk for many other conditions. Usually, high cholesterol levels are picked up through a regular blood test and screening. In rare cases, high cholesterol may start getting deposited around the eyes called as xanthelasma.
The only way to diagnose high cholesterol in the blood is through a blood test. This test is usually done after a period of overnight fasting of 10 to 12 hours without any food, drink or pills. This is done to get an accurate reading and eliminate false positive readings. This test is called a lipid profile which reports:
1. Total cholesterol (optimal levels — less than 200 mg/dL)
2. LDL cholesterol (optimal levels — less than 100 mg/dL)
3. HDL cholesterol (optimal levels — within 40 to 60mgdL)
4. Triglycerides (optimal levels — less than 150 mg/dL)
5. VLDL cholesterol (optimal levels — less than 30 mg/dL)
The most important component of treatment is lifestyle modification and exercising. After having implemented these, if your cholesterol levels are still high, medications will be advised. Common drugs given for lowering cholesterol levels are:
2. Bile acid binding resins
Complications and When Should You See a Doctor
The most common complication of high cholesterol is atherosclerosis or deposition of fats in the walls of the arteries. This narrows the arteries and reduces the rate of blood flow. This condition can cause symptoms such as:
1. Chest pain (angina)
2. Heart attack
3. Brain stroke
In case of the following signs and symptoms a medical professional should be consulted immediately:
1. Sudden chest pain
2. Sudden breathlessness
3. Gradually increasing breathlessness on regular activity
4. Dizziness, confusion
5. Blurring vision
6. Numbness of a part of face or a body part
7. Slurred speech/slow speech
8. Difficulty in walking