How Do You Know If Your Cholesterol Is Too High?
Everyone has cholesterol, which is a yellowish-white waxy lipid (also called fat) found in every cell in the body. Cholesterol contributes to the proper functioning of cells and organs. It also plays an important role in the production of hormones, vitamins, and digestive juices.
There are two sources of cholesterol: 80% is produced naturally in the liver and intestines, and the remaining 20% can be obtained from food.
Signs of high cholesterol levels
High cholesterol is a rampant disease that usually has no symptoms. You won’t notice it until you have a blood test or a serious event such as a stroke or heart attack.
Top Symptoms of High Cholesterol
Since high cholesterol is usually undetectable, it’s good to know the signs of complications like heart attacks and strokes.
Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke
Coronary artery disease (also called heart disease) occurs when cholesterol builds up in the arteries and stops the flow of blood. It usually takes the form of angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.
Symptoms may include the following
- Pain in the chest
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, weakness, nausea, and cold sweats
- Shortness of breath
Peripheral artery disease
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) occurs when cholesterol builds up, preventing blood from reaching the kidneys, stomach and extremities.
Here are some symptoms to look out for.
- Foot fatigue
- Pain in the feet
- Changes in the hairs on the feet
- Burning pallor of the toes
- Thickening of toenails
- Cold feet
- Sores on the feet
A buildup of cholesterol that prevents blood from reaching the brain can lead to a stroke. Symptoms of a stroke can appear very suddenly.
Some common symptoms include
- Problems with the mouth
- Problems with vision
- Loss of consciousness or confusion
- Difficulty walking
- Severe headaches
If you think you or someone you know is having a heart attack or stroke, call 911 immediately.
But why is my cholesterol so high?
High cholesterol – the medical term for high cholesterol – occurs when blood levels are too high. This condition affects about one-third of adults. Yikes!!!
So, how does blood get stuck in all that fat? Many of the possible causes of high cholesterol are related to lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise. However, family history and other medical history can also affect cholesterol.
Habits that increase your risk of developing high cholesterol
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Being inactive
- Not getting enough sleep
- Consuming too many calories
- Saturated fat diet
- Trans fat diet
Maybe you were born with it
Genetically induced high cholesterol is called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH).People with HF are born with high cholesterol because their bodies cannot process LDL properly.
HF is one of the most common genetic disorders, affecting 1 in 220 adults, and people with FS have a 13 times higher risk of developing heart disease. Untreated HF can lead to long-term high cholesterol levels and heart disease.
Does it go hand in hand with cholesterol?
Some diseases also have a high risk of high LDL cholesterol.
- High blood pressure
- Inflammatory diseases
- Kidney disease
Other risk factors
Age, gender, and race are also risk factors.
High cholesterol levels increase with age. This is due to biochemical changes that make the body work harder.
Certain demographic groups, such as non-Hispanic white women, have higher total cholesterol levels.
So, what can you do to control your cholesterol?
Prevention is better than cure
While you can’t completely eliminate risk, certain lifestyle changes can help reduce risk factors.
Preventing high cholesterol is good business! Here are some ideas to help you get started.
- Eat foods high in fiber, such as oats, beans and legumes.
- Say “yes” to unsaturated fats such as avocados, vegetable oils and most nuts.
- Fill your plate with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables.
A quick search online will reveal more healthy recipes than you’ve prepared in a lifetime.
Reduce your intake of foods high in alcohol, sugar, salt, trans fats and saturated fats. Manufacturers add trans fats, which contain saturated fats, to processed foods and animal products.
It is best to limit your intake.
- Baked goods
- Fast food restaurants
- Fried foods
- All foods made with whole milk
- Hydrogenated oils
- Red meat
- Refined sugars
- Refined grains
These foods are fine in small amounts once in a while, but reducing or eliminating them will naturally lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels.
Smoking lowers HDL cholesterol, damages blood vessels and increases the risk of atherosclerosis, which can lead to strokes and heart attacks.
If you need help quitting smoking, check out our many resources and talk to your doctor.
Treating high cholesterol
Depending on your specific situation, your doctor may recommend one or more treatments.
You need to move it up and you need to move it down and you need to move it up.
Studies have shown that exercise can raise HDL levels and lower triglycerides.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week for adults. And children ages 6 to 17 need at least one hour of moderate-intensity activity per day.
You may have seen TV commercials for designer statins. These types do double duty: they limit your body’s production of cholesterol and help remove more LDL from your blood.
- Bile acid chelators use bile to remove LDL from the blood.
- Niacin, a B vitamin, cuts bad fats in the blood while increasing good fats (HDL).
- Fibrates reduce the production of LDL in the liver and speed up the removal of LDL from the body.
- Injections are a newer drug and are mainly used in FS patients.
Mother Earth has several potential remedies in her medicine cabinet that have not yet been supported by scientific research. Natural supplements such as hawthorn, astragalus, flaxseed and garlic are thought to help improve cholesterol, but further research is needed.
As with any supplement or complementary therapy, consult your doctor before trying them.