Cholesterol is a type of fat that circulates in the blood. Your body makes some amount of cholesterol and the rest comes from the food you eat, mainly the animal products (plants do not contain cholesterol). Some amount of cholesterol is needed to build healthy cells but having high levels of cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol is carried in the blood by special proteins called lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are really what are measured to find out how much cholesterol is present in the blood. There are mainly two types of lipoproteins that are related to cardiovascular health:
When you have a high amount of bad cholesterol (LDL) circulating in your blood, it gets deposited in the walls of the blood vessels. These deposits narrow the blood vessels and make it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. When the narrowing becomes severe, not enough oxygen reaches your heart and brain which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. So high levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) is bad for your health.
Good cholesterol (HDL) does exactly opposite of the bad cholesterol. It removes fat from the deposits in the blood vessel and delivers to the liver and other organs where it is metabolized to less harmful elements. Therefore, a high level of good cholesterol (HDL) is good for your health.
Triglycerides are the other type of fat (lipid) found in the blood. High triglycerides contribute to the hardening and thickening of arterial wall (atherosclerosis), which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Extremely high levels of triglycerides can also cause inflammation of the pancreas.
These are the risk factors which may increase the level of bad cholesterol in your body:
High cholesterol level does not exhibit any symptoms on its own. So you may not even know you have a high LDL or triglyceride levels. But having high cholesterol levels increases your risk of having heart attack or stroke.
Increased cholesterol levels is often identified during routine screening of cardiovascular problems. If you have any symptoms of heart disease, diabetes or kidney disorders, you should regularly check your cholesterol levels. Your doctor will usually check for triglyceride levels as part of the cholesterol test (also called the Lipid panel or Lipid profile). You will have to fast for 9-12 hours before giving the blood sample.
Your doctor will measure your blood pressure, weight and make an assessment of your risk of developing cardiovascular problems as well based on your history, physical examination and laboratory findings. You may be referred to a dietitian or an exercise program, as appropriate.
Based on the levels of cholesterol in your body and other factors that might increase the risk of a heart disease, the specific treatment may vary. However, there are two approaches two treating high cholesterol:
Regardless of the treatment provided, lifestyle modification is always essential to keep a healthy balance of cholesterol in body.
The specific choice of medication depends on various factors including your individual risk factors, age, current health and possible side effects. Statins, Bile salt binding resins, Fibrate, Niacin and omega fatty acids supplements are some of the common choices.
Adapting a healthy lifestyle such as eating a healthy diet and daily exercise, regular health check up with cardiovascular screening, complying with the treatment regimen and regular follow up are some of the ways to prevent and control high cholesterol in your body.