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*NIH. High blood cholesterol what you need to know. Last updated on: June 2005. [Online]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/wyntk.pdf. Accessed on: 15.11.2019.
High cholesterol has no symptoms, you may not know that your cholesterol is too high.*
A simple blood test can identify cholesterol levels.
*NIH. High blood cholesterol what you need to know. Last updated on: June 2005. [Online]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/wyntk.pdf. Accessed on: 15.11.2019.
Test your Cholesterol IQ
Q1.
Does your body need cholesterol?
Correct. You answered: True

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance your body produces naturally. It helps make new cells, some hormones, and substances that help digest foods. Cholesterol is part of a healthy body. But having too much of it in your blood can be a problem.

Thank you for completing the quiz.
It was an attempt to test your knowledge on the condition. To know more about your risk, symptoms, treatment and prevention, please go through the website.

Reference:

American Heart Association. Understanding & Managing CHOLESTEROL. Available at https://www.heart.org/-/media/Files/Health-Topics/Cholesterol/My-Cholesterol-Guide-English.pdf. Last accessed on 05.04.2022.
High Cholesterol and Heart Disease

Before discussing about the relationship between high cholesterol and heart, it is important to understand what cholesterol is, as there are many myths surrounding cholesterol. Cholesterol is actually a wax-like substance, which unlike most people believe is not inherently “bad”. In fact, it is required by our body to build cells and make hormones and vitamins. But, the problem arises when its level in the blood beyond normal limits. Interestingly, not all cholesterols are bad. Cholesterol is divided into two types – LDL Cholesterol and HDL Cholesterol.

While LDL is considered as ‘bad cholesterol’, HDL is known to be the good cholesterol. The ‘‘good” and “bad” of a cholesterol is dependent on the connection between cholesterol and heart health. It is important to note that a healthy level of the good cholesterol (HDL) may help safeguard heart against attack and stroke while the bad one (LDL) is associated with fatty buildups in arteries (atherosclerosis). High cholesterol has been identified as one of the major controllable risk factors to prevent heart-related complications including heart attack, stroke, and coronary heart disease. Further, risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes may elevate the risk multifold.

While cholesterol is required by human body to build healthy cells, too much of cholesterol accumulation in the blood can increase the risk of heart disease. High cholesterol gets deposited in the blood vessels as fatty deposits called as plaque. As these deposits grow over time, the supply of oxygenated blood through the arteries gets restricted. High cholesterol causes heart disease by causing narrowing of the arteries, which in turn decreases the flow of blood to vital organs including heart as well as brain and kidneys.

One of the major high cholesterol effects on heart is coronary heart disease (CHD). The narrowing of arteries and blood vessels, and subsequent reduced blood flow to the heart results in angina (chest pain) due to insufficient blood flow to the heart. High cholesterol leads to heart attack when a blood vessel is completely blocked and the heart muscle becomes very weak.

Sometimes, these fat deposits may break suddenly, forming a clot that may result in a heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol is also linked to high blood pressure or hypertension. Hardening and narrowing of arteries due cholesterol plaque and calcium (atherosclerosis) put strain on heart to pump blood through them, thus causing the blood pressure to rise abnormally high.

Generally, there are no obvious highcholesterol symptoms that one can notice, especially when it starts to grow initially. However, its association with certain conditions, including high blood pressure, angina, and stroke among other circulatory ailments warrants attention for high cholesterol.

Having said this, there may be slight indication of high cholesterol symptoms, including:

  • Being obese or diabetic
  • Appearance of soft, yellowish lesions or outgrowths on the skin

In addition to this, people with the following risk factors are vulnerable to high cholesterol levels:

  • Unhealthy dietary habits like eating saturated and trans fat, and consumption of foods high in cholesterol, including red meat and full-fat dairy products
  • A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater
  • Minimum or no physical activity or exercise
  • Smoking as it damages the walls of your blood vessels and lowers good cholesterol (HDL)
  • Being an older adult (Men 45 or above and women 55), as with age body’s chemistry changes. Also, liver’s ability to eliminate LDL cholesterol weakens with age.

It is important to note here, cholesterol levels may become unexpectedly high without warning. Therefore, your doctor may suggest a lipid profile test to minimize the risk, especially if you have above mentioned risk factors.

First of all, everyone over age 20 is advised to get their cholesterol levels checked at least once every 5 years. The timeframe decreases with age and associated risk factors. It is a simple blood test called a lipid or lipoprotein profile, including the following vital statistics:

  • Total cholesterol level
  • LDL (the “bad” cholesterol)
  • HDL (the “good” cholesterol)
  • Triglycerides

Next, the cholesterol and heart disease treatment begins with lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, regular physical activity, no smoking, and keeping the alcohol use to the minimum.

Cholesterol treatment for heart disease may comprise medication or a combination of medications, depending on age, overall health status, and possible drug side effects.

Cholesterol medication may include:

  • Statins
  • Bile-acid-binding resins
  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors
  • Injectable medications
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplements found to be useful in lowering triglycerides levels.

These are common cholesterol medications that are prescribed to people for managing cholesterol associated heart disease risk. Most prominently, one should never consider self-medication for treating cholesterol without consulting a medical specialist.

No doubt, high cholesterol can be a dangerous condition, especially in the view of its connection with heart disease. However, the good news is high cholesterol can be lowered and managed, which in turn can help minimize the risk of heart disease.

The rules are simple:

  • Avoid saturated and trans fat
  • Limit intake of red meat and whole milk dairy products
  • Go for skim milk or low-fat or fat-free dairy products instead
  • Keep fried foods for just ‘cheat meals’
  • Eat dollops of fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish, nuts and whole grains
  • Limit sodium, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, and processed foods
  • Know which fats raise LDL cholesterol and which ones can help lower the risk of heart disease
  • Become more physically active. A 30-minute activity per day, for 5 days a week, can go a long way to help prevent cholesterol and heart disease
  • Quit smoking with immediate effect. Quitters are winners when it comes to smoking. By quitting, smokers can make a lifesaving decision to lowertheir LDL cholesterol and increase their HDL cholesterol. In addition to first hand smoking, it is important to stay away from passive smoking. Parents should make a note of this.
  • Overweight or obese are more vulnerable to develop bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol. It is known that even 5 –10 percent of weight loss can help lower cholesterol levels.

Let us make this very clear.

Don’t become your own doctors. Calculating a heart disease risk is a doctor’s job. You may refer to credible sources like https://www.makingindiaheartstrong.com/ for a generalized idea about your heart disease risk. However, you need an expert or a physician for testing for heart disease.

When you meet your physician, you should ask about your heart disease risk. Based on your symptoms, s/he then might do a physical examination or suggest certain below mentioned tests to confirm the diagnosis:

Lipid profile to test four types of fats:

  • Total cholesterol
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL)
  • Triglycerides

Noninvasive tests for heart disease

  • Electrocardiogram
  • Echocardiogram
  • Stress test
  • Carotid ultrasound
  • Holter monitor
  • Chest X-ray
  • Tilt table test
  • CT scan
  • Heart MRI

These are tests used to detect your heart health in relation to high cholesterol.

To know more about prevention and treatment of high cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, HDL, or any heart-related testing or treatment for high heart rate or hypertension, you can visit Making India Heart Strong website, anytime, anywhere. Stay aware to make your heart healthy and live well.

Reference:

  • https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11918-cholesterol-high-cholesterol-diseases
  • https://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/guide/understanding-cholesterol-problems-symptoms
  • https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/prevention-and-treatment-of-high-cholesterol-hyperlipidemia

Know your cholesterol numbers

The cholesterol test checks your levels of:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol. Having high levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries and result in heart disease or stroke.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol. High levels can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Triglycerides is a type of fat in your blood that your body uses for energy. The combination of high levels of triglycerides with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol levels can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • Total cholesterol, the total amount of cholesterol in your blood based on your HDL, LDL, and triglycerides numbers.

Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

Desirable Cholesterol Levels

  • Total cholesterol
    Less than 200 mg/dL
  • LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
    Less than 100 mg/dL
  • HDL (“good”) cholesterol
    Greater than or equal to 60 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides
    Less than 150 mg/dL
Your doctor will look at your cholesterol numbers, along with your family history, age, gender, and other parts of your lifestyle or health, such as smoking, that could raise your risk for high cholesterol.

Reference:

  • CDC. Getting Your Cholesterol Checked. Reviewed: September 8, 2020. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/cholesterol_screening.htm. Last accessed on 05.04.2022.

Blogs and Articles on Cholesterol

Reasons For Cholesterol: The Top 8 To Be Aware Of
Date : 01st July 2022
Cholesterol Myths & Facts: Knowing 10 Truths Can Save You
Date : 28th June 2022
Prevention and Treatment of High Cholesterol
Date : 27th May 2021
Cholesterol

References

    1. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. Cholesterol Myths and Facts. Reviewed: January 4, 2021. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/myths_facts.htm?msclkid=40ba8b45b4bf11ecbe56693de5037fc1. Last accessed on 05.04.2022.
    2. American Heart Association. Understanding & Managing CHOLESTEROL. Available at https://www.heart.org/-/media/Files/Health-Topics/Cholesterol/My-Cholesterol-Guide-English.pdf. Last accessed on 05.04.2022.
Available at ttps://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/myths_facts.htm?msclkid=40ba8b45b4bf11ecbe56693de5037fc1. Last accessed on 05.04.2022.

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