Everything You Need To Know About Cholesterol Levels

high cholesterol levels

Cholesterol is a fatty substance naturally found in all the cells of the body. This wax-like compound is produced by the liver and is also found in foods like dairy and meat. The human body requires cholesterol to function correctly. It aids in the making of hormones and building cells.

The body only needs a small amount. If there are high cholesterol levels in the blood, then there is a risk of contracting coronary artery diseases, diabetes, and other such fatal problems. The risk depends on which type of cholesterol is in a higher ratio within the bloodstream.

Types of Cholesterol

A form of a protein called the lipoproteins form small packages to carry the cholesterol around in the bloodstream. The kind of cholesterol depends on which of the 2 sub-categories of this protein is being used to transport it:

Low-density Lipoproteins:

This one has been labeled as the ‘bad cholesterol’. In reality, it is essential for specific body functions. But too much LDL circulating in the blood can increase the risk of health complications.

It can build-up within the walls of the arteries, forming a cholesterol plaque. The narrowed-down arteries enable blood clots to block them, leading to the dangers of heart diseases or attacks.

High-density Cholesterol:

Named as the ‘good cholesterol’, these lipoproteins travel around the body and scavenge for excess LDL cholesterol. They send them to the liver to be broken down and ultimately eliminated. It stops plaque from forming within the arteries. HDL levels could quickly run low, increasing the risk of uncontrolled levels of LDL in the blood.

There is another form of fat in the blood, knows as triglycerides. Since it has not been present in the blood and is a combination of a protein, it cannot be categorized under any sub-category. They circulate in the bloodstream holding onto energy or calories that are taken via the foods consumed.

High levels of triglycerides worsen the state of high levels of LDL cholesterol. Women are more prone to the ill-effects of this fat.

Cholesterol Numbers

Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter (md/dL), the healthy levels of cholesterol based on age are:

  • Any gender younger than 19 years

  1. Total Cholesterol: <170mg/dL
  2. LDL: <100mg/dL
  3. HDL: >45mg/dL
  • Women older than 20 years

  1. Total Cholesterol: 125- 200mg/dL
  2. LDL: <100mg/dl
  3. HDL: >50mg/dL
  • Men older than 20 years

  1. Total Cholesterol: 125- 200mg/dL
  2. LDL: <100mg/dL
  3. HDL: >40mg/dL

Normal triglyceride levels should be below 150mg/dL.

Causes of High Cholesterol

Determining high cholesterol is not as easy as it seems. It has not been established that obese people are more at the risk of elevated levels than skinny people since factors influencing the amount of cholesterol goes beyond food intake and bodyweight. Some of these causes are:

Hereditary:

A condition called familial hypercholesterolemia can make some people genetically prone to having high levels of cholesterol. This genetic disorder is rare but entirely out of control for the affected person. Having a family history of early-age heart attacks urgently calls for testing and medical treatment of cholesterol.

Diet:

As mentioned before, a specific diet could heavily influence the amount of cholesterol consumed. Fatty foods are mainly responsible, but it is not simple to completely avoid fats from the diet. The body needs some forms of good fat.

Eliminating products that contain trans fats and saturated fats is vital. They are present as hydrogenated oils. Some of these foods are dairy products, baked goods, specific types of meat, deep-fried and processed items, and chocolate.

Physical Activity:

Being physically inactive is dangerous for heart health. Exercise raises the levels of HDL and lowers that of LDL. It aids in moving the LDL molecules from the blood vessels to the liver, for final expulsion.

Strenuous exercise is not mandatory. Only 30 minutes of some sort of physical activity carried out daily would be enough to keep a check on cholesterol levels.

Smoking:

Smoking does not directly impact cholesterol, but it does deplete heart health, and could lead to attacks or strokes. The threat is heightened if the individual already has high LDL cholesterol.

It could lower the levels of HDL, diminishing its protective function for the body. People who quit smoking immediately see a rise in HDL levels.

Some factors cannot be under a person’s control. High cholesterol is a threat in older age, and women are more prone to adverse effects. Even racial factors could determine the body’s ability to handle the different types of cholesterol.

Treatment for High Cholesterol

Depending on how severe the case is, two treatment forms could be taken either individually or as a balanced combination. They are:

Healthy Lifestyle Changes

If involuntary factors do not influence cholesterol levels, heart-healthy habits can help. Following these simple steps could keep the fatty substance in control:

Food Choices:

Avoid or limit foods high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats, such as fast food or fried items. Consume fibrous foods like fruits and vegetables, along with healthy carbs like whole grains.

Lean sources of protein should be considered over fatty meat, like chicken, fish, and legumes. Oily fish like salmon and mackerel gives the body good cholesterol.

Exercise:

Some amount of physical movement in a day is a must. It could be chores that offer the active movement of the body in the form of walks, jogs, or workout plans. All of these aid in the management of weight too, and would bring about a much fitter lifestyle.

Manage Stress:

Chronic stress is responsible for raising the harmful levels of cholesterol. Stress would make a person choose less healthy diets, have an improper sleep, and perform little to no little exercise. All of these are factors that raise LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream.

Medical Help

If the self-help techniques do not give good results, or if the cholesterol is involuntary, certain drugs would need to be taken. The most common type of cholesterol medicines available is statins.

Statins are a class of lipid-lowering drugs that mildly raise the levels of HDL too. They include:

  1. Atorvastatin, available as Lipitor
  2. Pitavastatin sold as Livalo
  3. Fluvastatin, under the trade name Lescol

Additionally, a new class of drugs called PCSK9 inhibitors has been introduced alongside statins. They are primarily used to treat familial hypercholesterolemia. It is available as injectable drugs that need to be administered once every two weeks.

Conclusion

Cholesterol levels need to be checked regularly after attaining adulthood. Taking up healthy lifestyle choices as a regular habit would prevent the arrival of high levels completely.

If high cholesterol persists, the medical treatment taken would not mean that the habits could be dropped. In the long run, a combination of both would decrease the risk of potentially fatal heart complications.