Cholesterol Explained!

28 December, 2020

Cholesterol Explained!

Cholesterol is an essential substance which the body produces but is consumed by people in foods also. It is waxy and fat – like in appearance. It is an important part of the cell wall membrane and has important natural functions in producing hormones and vitamin D.

here are two types of cholesterol:

  • low-density lipoproteins (LDL) generally called as “bad” cholesterol
  • high-density lipoproteins (HDL) generally called as “good” cholesterol

Cholesterol helps in contributing to the structure of the cell walls, making digestive bile acids in the intestine, making certain hormones and also producing vitamin D.

Changes in lifestyle, family history, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise would increase the cholesterol levels and develop risk factors for heart diseases.

Fats are present in animal foods, meat and cheese. Saturated Fats can be found in dairy products, chocolates, cakes, pastries, baked products, deep fried oily foods. Trans fats occur in almost all fried and processed foods.

The cholesterol from these foods tends to deposit in the linings of the arteries / form plaques, thereby narrowing the passage of blood flow to the heart causing atherosclerosis. This condition may lead to heart attacks, coronary heart diseases, paralysis attacks.

The conditions that lead to high cholesterol levels include diabetes, liver or kidney disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, pregnancy and other conditions which increase levels of female hormones, underactive thyroid gland.

A person has to regularly check for cholesterol levels as they may not have any signs or symptoms and may get a heart attack without any warnings.

HDL cholesterol restricts / prevents LDL cholesterol from getting deposited in the arteries thereby minimizing the risks of blockages.

So it is always advisable to check cholesterol levels by doing fasting Lipid profile to get the exact values of HDL and LDL, so it helps the physician to give proper treatment.

Normal Levels and Ranges of HDL and LDL values -

Total cholesterol levels of less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) are considered to be normal . A reading of 240 mg/dL and more is considered high.

LDL cholesterol levels for normal patients should be less than 190 mg/dL.

HDL levels should be kept higher. The optimal reading for HDL levels is of 40 mg/dL or higher. A reading of less than 40 mg/dL can be a major risk factor for heart disease.

Triglycerides are another type of cholesterol that is found to be on higher side in some specific types of populations suffering from obesity and diabetes.

The normal levels of triglycerides are around 200 mg/Dl.

Factors that increase the risk of high levels of cholesterol are -

1. Obesity -
Sedentary lifestyle makes the person tend to gain weight and have BMI – Body Mass Index of 30 and above. This puts the person at risk of high cholesterol.

2. Unhealthy Eating Style -
Eating saturated fats found in animal products like red meat, dairy products , trans fats found in fried foods, packaged foods, commercially baked cookies can raise cholesterol levels.

3. Lack Of Exercise -
Exercise keeps body and mind, fit and fine, in sound health. As the weight is controlled automatically the cholesterol levels are controlled.

4. Addictions like smoking, consuming alcohol -
Cigarette smoking damages the walls of blood vessels, making them more prone to accumulate fatty deposits.

5. The other lifestyle disorders like diabetes, blood pressure, hypothyroidism -
contributes to higher levels of dangerous cholesterol called very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and lower HDL cholesterol.

Precautionary measures to be taken to control cholesterol levels...

To reduce the cholesterol levels or maintain a suitable level people should make a few lifestyle changes -

Follow a regular and balanced healthy diet. Try to reduce the intake of saturated and trans fats. Consumption of red meat should be significantly reduced. Include more whole grains, fruits, green vegetables, beans, oats, fibres in diet. Prefer boiled or baked foods over fried items.

Go for walking , exercise for 20-30 minutes regularly, perform some simple yoga, meditations. This will help to maintain inner peace and help in achieving and maintaining weight.

Stay away from addictions like smoking, consuming alcohol.

These steps will definitely help in managing cholesterol levels and thereby reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack.

Medications / Treatments -

Depending on the levels of cholesterol, if it can be controlled normally the doctor asks the patient to control the diet along with a few exercises or else with the medicine STATIN.

In patients with a history of diabetes and hypertension, ASCVD scoring is used to determine the severity of the disease and after that the treatment is initiated. In some of the patients, the medicines Ezetimibe and Fibrates are given as part of the treatment.

Sometimes the patient may not experience any symptoms and after investigations they find their cholesterol levels to be on the higher side. At such a point in time it is necessary to be on toes and keep a vigilant eye on health. Investigations have to be done on the regular basis so as to avoid any complications, if the cholesterol levels are found to be high then the treatment has to be started and continued till the next advice given by the physician. The treatment should not be discontinued without the knowledge of the physician as it may lead to complications.

Generally there are no side effects of the medicines taken in the course of the treatment for cholesterol, but some patients may experience mild side effects such as muscle aches or weakness.

If anybody develops any symptom after the introduction of Statin as a part of their treatment, they should bring it to the notice of their consulting doctor. So that the correct action can be taken and the course of treatment can be changed and the patient is made comfortable. In this way long term complications can be avoided.

So right steps taken at the right time will surely help in controlling the cholesterol levels. Proper diet, exercise, regular investigations and proper treatment would definitely help in overcoming the long term complications caused by the increased levels of cholesterol.

Healthy Heart, Healthy Life...

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