Stress And Cholesterol – How Does Stress Affect Cholesterol Levels?
The greatest concern is not the immediate onset of stress, but chronic stress that can later cause high cholesterol in a variety of ways. People may stop exercising or increase their intake of unhealthy foods.
Understanding the effects of stress on cholesterol is becoming increasingly important. Nearly 28 percent of U.S. adults age 20 and older have high total cholesterol (more than 240 mg/dL) or are taking medications to lower it.
The greatest concern is chronic stress, rather than an immediate stress episode, which can lead to high cholesterol levels later in a variety of ways. People may stop exercising or increase their intake of unhealthy foods. Stress can also stimulate the release of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones promote the release of triglycerides and free fatty acids, which can lead to a long-term increase in LDL cholesterol.
Doctors share with their patients a classic study of 18 accountants whose cholesterol increased as the April 15 U.S. tax filing deadline approached. These professionals’ total cholesterol levels rose from 206 mg/d in January to 232 on April 15, then dropped to 215 in June. According to the paper’s authors, the accountants’ diet and exercise levels remained constant throughout the study, suggesting that these changes were a product of stress.
A subsequent study showed a similar effect: When more than 100 airline pilots were exposed to high levels of stress, their total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels rose by 5 percent. The researchers conducted pre- and post-tests on all pilots, which many considered to be one of the most stressful aspects of their careers: the recertification exams. Pilots’ cholesterol levels also rose after they were exposed to stressful situations in the lab, such as being asked to give presentations with little preparation time.
Experts say it’s unclear to what extent stress contributes to elevated cholesterol levels. Such effects are more difficult to assess than changes in diet and exercise. Among the recent confusion about the extent to which diet contributes to high cholesterol, questions about the role of stress have emerged. Studies have led many consumers to conclude that eggs, which contain cholesterol and saturated fat, do not contribute to coronary heart disease, contrary to previous recommendations.
Research on the role of stress in heart disease has been inconsistent. Some doctors attribute this in part to the introduction of cholesterol-lowering drugs – statins – in the late 1980s, which sharply reduced this concern.
Symptoms To Look For In High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is one of the fats in the body. The amount of cholesterol in the blood depends largely on the amount produced by the liver and the type of fat consumed from food.
Some diseases can also increase cholesterol, such as diabetes, kidney disease, polycystic ovary syndrome and hypothyroidism.
A blood level of 240 mg/dL or higher indicates that you have hypercholesterolemia, which doubles the risk of heart attack compared to those who keep their levels below 200 mg/dL.
When cells are unable to absorb all the cholesterol circulating in the blood, excess cholesterol is deposited on the artery walls, narrowing them and leading to the development of atherosclerosis.
What Is Bad Cholesterol And Good Cholesterol?
There are two types of cholesterol: HDL, known as “good” cholesterol, and LDL, known as “bad” cholesterol. The former’s main function is to transport cholesterol from the arteries to the liver, where it is excreted. Some studies have shown that smoking lowers good cholesterol.
LDL works in the opposite way, transporting cholesterol from the liver to body tissues. High levels of this cholesterol can promote cardiovascular disease.
In general, men have higher levels of “bad” cholesterol. Proper medical monitoring and a balanced diet can help control blood cholesterol levels.
Be Alert To The Symptoms Of High Cholesterol Levels
Generally, high cholesterol does not cause symptoms for a long time. This is why it is called the “silent problem”. However, the following symptoms can warn you that your levels are not in the right range
- Swelling of the extremities
- Dryness, dry mouth and bad breath.
- Heavy stomach and indigestion
- Disturbed bowel rhythm
- The appearance of hives
- Chest pain
- Blurred vision
- Restlessness when traveling or exercising
- Loss of balance
- Heart attack
Following a healthy lifestyle, exercise and regular monitoring are essential to maintain high cholesterol levels.