Also known as high cholesterol, hypercholesterolemia occurs when the total cholesterol level in the blood is above the normal limits. Similar to High blood pressure, there are no symptoms associated with this disorder. The only way to know if you have high cholesterol is by taking a blood test.
Normal: less than 200 mg/dL
Moderately high: between 200 to 239 mg/dL
Very High: 240 mg/dL or more
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is an important fat found in the body which is a component of the outer layer of the cells. It is produced naturally by the liver and has many important functions which include acting as a filter determining which set of molecules can pass through the cells in the body and which cannot. It converts sunlight to vitamin D which is essential for bone strength. It is very important in hormone production in the body of both men and women. It helps in the production of bile which is also secreted by the liver and stored in the gall bladder and aids in the digestion of food in the intestines. It also acts as a cushion for nerve fibers.
Who is at risk:
– Persons with poor eating habits such as a diet high in fat intake.
– Overweight and obese persons.
– Persons who are not very active or mobile.
– Persons with a strong family history of high cholesterol or heart diseases.
– Smokers and heavy alcohol drinkers.
– Persons with chronic illnesses like High Blood pressure and Diabetes.
Possible complications of high cholesterol:
– Atherosclerosis: This is the most common complication of high cholesterol. It is the narrowing of the arteries in the body due to plaque build-up and thickening of the arterial walls. The arteries are those blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart.
– Increase of coronary and heart disease risk which could lead to angina or heart attacks. Angina is a type of chest pain that is caused by a lack of blood flow to the heart muscle, generally due to obstruction or muscle spasms. If left untreated it could progress to a heart attack.
A heart attack or myocardial infarction occurs when cells of the heart die due to an obstruction of blood flow to it via the coronary arteries, (the vessels that take blood to the heart.)
– Stroke: Strokes occur when there is either a hemorrhage (bleed) or blood clot in the vessels of the brain reducing the blood or oxygen flow to it.
Reducing your risk or High Cholesterol Level
Like most other diseases the road to recovery or treatment begins with life style changes such as the following:
– Lose weight if you are over weight
– Become more active: create a weekly exercise routine that best suites you and your daily life
– Reduce or eliminate trans fat like fried food from your diet and incorporate more whole grains, fruits and vegetables
– Stop smoking
– Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption.
– Control any underlying diseases you may have.
If all of the above fails, your doctor may decide to start you on medication if you have been diagnosed with hypercholesterolemia depending on your age and any underlying illness that you may already have.
Always consult your doctor before starting any type of medication. Be sure to mention any medical condition you may have or medication you may be currently taking.