What Is Cholesterol?
To understand high blood cholesterol, it helps to learn about cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all cells of the body.
Your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. However, cholesterol also is found in some of the foods you eat. Butter, ghee, hard margarines, lard, dripping and goose fat, fatty meat and meat products such as sausages, Full fat cheese, milk, cream and yogurt, Coconut and palm oils and coconut cream. These food are supposed to have lots of bad cholesterol but if we limit the amount we eat then it would not do much harm.
Oatmeal, oat bran and high-fibre foods
Oatmeal contains soluble fibre, which reduces your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the "bad" cholesterol. Soluble fibre is also found in such foods as kidney beans, apples, pears, barley and prunes. Soluble fibre can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream.
Cholesterol travels through your bloodstream in small packages called lipoproteins (lip-o-PRO-teens). These packages are made of fat (lipid) on the inside and proteins on the outside. Two kinds of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout your body: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Having healthy levels of both types of lipoproteins is important. LDL cholesterol sometimes is called “bad” cholesterol. A high LDL level leads to a build-up of cholesterol in your arteries. (Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to your body.) HDL cholesterol sometimes is called “good” cholesterol. This is because it carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. Your liver removes the cholesterol from your body.
What Is High Blood Cholesterol?
High blood cholesterol is a condition in which you have too much cholesterol in your blood. By itself, the condition usually has no signs or symptoms. Thus, many people don’t know that their cholesterol levels are too high.
People who have high blood cholesterol have a greater chance of getting coronary heart disease also called coronary artery disease. The higher the level of LDL cholesterol in your blood, the GREATER your chance is of getting heart disease. The higher the level of HDL cholesterol in your blood, the LOWER your chance is of getting heart disease.
Coronary heart disease is a condition in which plaque builds up inside the coronary (heart) arteries. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, fat, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. When plaque builds up in the arteries, the condition is called atherosclerosis. Over time, plaque hardens and narrows your coronary arteries. This limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart.
Eventually, an area of plaque can rupture (break open). This causes a blood clot to form on the surface of the plaque. If the clot becomes large enough, it can mostly or completely block blood flow through a coronary artery. If the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle is reduced or blocked, angina or a heart attack may occur.
Angina is chest pain or discomfort. It may feel like pressure or squeezing in your chest. The pain also may occur in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. Angina pain may even feel like indigestion.
A heart attack occurs if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle is cut off. If blood flow isn’t restored quickly, the section of heart muscle begins to die. Without quick treatment, a heart attack can lead to serious problems or death.
Plaque also can build up in other arteries in your body, such as the arteries that bring oxygen-rich blood to your brain and limbs. This can lead to problems such as carotid artery disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.
Recommended normal cholesterol levels in the UK
NHS guidelines recommend that total cholesterol levels should be 5mmol/L or less for healthy adults, and 4mmol/L or less for those at high risk. But what is a normal cholesterol level when it comes to LDL-cholesterol guidelines? Well, out of this total, LDL-cholesterol levels should be below 3mmol/L for healthy adults, and 2mmol/L or less for those at high risk. According to NHS figures for the UK in 2011, around half of all people over the age of 18 have a total cholesterol level above the recommended level of 5mmol/L. It is recommended that you have 1mmol/L of HDL-cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) in your blood.
What are triglycerides?
Triglycerides are another type of fatty substance in the blood. Like LDL cholesterol (the bad type), triglycerides are also bad. They're found in foods such as dairy products, meat and cooking oils. They can also be produced in the body, either by the body’s fat stores or in the liver. Ideally, your triglyceride level should be less than 1.7 mmol/l.
If you have high triglyceride levels, you may have a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease than people with lower levels. If you are very overweight, eat a lot of fatty and sugary foods, or drink too much alcohol, you are more likely to have a high triglyceride level.
Eat a healthy balanced diet
Eating lots of fruit, vegetables, and wholegrain is better than eating foods high in saturated or trans fats. You can replace saturated fats with the healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as olive, rapeseed or sunflower oils and spreads. Choose foods that are high in soluble fibre such as oats, beans, pulses, lentils, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Soluble fibre can help lower cholesterol.
Do regular exercise
Regular physical activity can help increase your HDL cholesterol (the good type of cholesterol). Staying active is great way to keep your heart healthy. When I mentioned about exercises, it does not mean to lift weights in a gym but a simple one such as walking is a good exercise. If possible walking in a park is an advantage because of fresh air. Busy cities have polluted air with dust particles and toxic air from vehicles. No wonder some people prefer to live in country side.
Anyone can mention this term even hundreds of times but some people turn a blind eye or deaf ear to these terms. I have seen some people smoke just outside the hospital entrance and some people were on wheel chairs, perhaps they are not aware of the disadvantages of smoking. They may be smoking due to sheer habit. Quitting smoking can help to lower your cholesterol and improve your heart health. I am sure you all heard that smoking is bad but however much it is mentioned that smoking is bad for your health, still people smoke at home, in the office also in pubs and restaurants also when their friends and families get together for a meal. If you happened to go pass a pub then you would notice, lots of people smoke followed by a drink such as a beer. I have my doubts some people would stop smoking altogether.
Will I need to take medication?
Whether or not you need to take cholesterol-lowering medicine depends on your overall risk of cardiovascular disease. Cholesterol-lowering medicines such as statins are prescribed for people who are at greatest overall risk of cardiovascular disease. If you have questions about your medicines, speak with your doctor. Statins are the medications to lower your cholesterol and there are several types of Statins that include: Atorvastatin (Lipitor), Fluvastatin (Lescol), Lovastatin, Pitavastatin (Livalo), Pravastatin (Pravachol), Rosuvastatin (Crestor) and Simvastatin (Zocor). Your doctor would decide which one is suitable for you.
Will eating too many eggs raise my cholesterol?
Dr Hector Perera