What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol comes from two Greek words ‘chole’ and ‘stereos’. While the former one means bile, the latter translates to stiff or solid. Cholesterol is a type of lipid or fat, which the liver produces and is present in the blood of all humans and animals. It is an essential component in maintaining normal functioning of the body. This wax like steroid is present in the outermost layer of each cell in a human body and has various different functions. Cholesterol is the major sterol that animals synthesize. Fungi and plants also synthesize cholesterol, but in small amounts.
Any compound that contains a fat and a protein is called a lipoprotein. Lipoproteins carry cholesterol in the blood vessels. There are three main types of lipoproteins and these are – triglycerides, HDL “high density lipoprotein” and LDL “low density lipoprotein”.
High density lipoproteins are commonly called the “good” part of cholesterol. These lipoproteins help in the removal of cholesterol from the cells, which is then transported back to the liver where it is disintegrated and excreted as waste or broken down into parts.
Low density lipoproteins are the entire opposite of HDL. Thus, it is not a surprise that they are termed as the “bad” part of cholesterol. LDL is responsible for carrying the cholesterol to the cells from the liver. High cholesterol levels arise when there is an excess of cholesterol deposited in the cell.
What Causes High Cholesterol?
High cholesterol can be caused by several factors. If an individual is suffering from diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, or has a high level of triglycerides, then his or her cholesterol level might increase. People suffering from liver or kidney related diseases or having an underperforming thyroid gland can also face the same consequences.
Apart from this, there are several lifestyle oriented factors that contribute towards causing high cholesterol levels in humans. Some of the important ones are enlisted below:
- Food habits
- Smoking and drinking
Incorrect food habits result in accumulation of LDL, thus causing high cholesterol. Junk food and food items rich in saturated fats if consumed on a regular basis prove to be very harmful. Cream, sausages, red meat, cakes, pastries, etc, are few examples of foods that are rich in saturated fats.
Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol increases the level of bad LDL, thus causing high cholesterol. This is observed in people who drink and smoke a lot.
Obese or over weight individuals also stand the risk of an increased level of cholesterol. Thus it is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly and staying fit.
Symptoms of High Cholesterol
It is difficult to try and identify the symptoms of high cholesterol only by looking at a patient. This problem is identified by conducting a blood test. Usually, the symptoms are observed due to the onset of a disease or health issue. These could be:
- Yellow Cholesterol deposits
- Damaged blood vessels causing a stroke
Angina is a coronary disease that is caused due to the narrowing of the arteries. In such a case, the patient will observe acute pain with a feeling of strong pressure over the chest region. They might experience breathlessness and a squeezing feeling around the arm, chest, neck and jaw as well. Nausea, increased and erratic heartbeat, heavy perspiration and dizziness could be some more symptoms for this problem.
This symptom is found in people who have a hereditary tendency of high cholesterol and is called Xanthomas. In this problem, yellow thick layers or patches are observed nearby the eyes. These are cholesterol deposits.
A stroke is, more often than not, quick and occurs without prior warning. However, there are some symptoms that are sure signs of a stroke. These are as follows:
- Patient’s body on one particular side starts getting numb suddenly
- Reduced vision and lack of ability to communicate
- Light-headedness, nausea, confusion and disability to maintain balance
- Vomiting and fever
High cholesterol results in narrowing the arteries. This hinders proper blood flow and the blood supply to the lower body is limited. Thus, it causes acute pain in the legs, especially while exercising.
Prepare for a Cholesterol Test
The cholesterol level in an individual’s body is checked by conducting a blood test. However, there are certain important factors to take into consideration before going in for a cholesterol testing. These are as follows:
- Medicine intake
- Meal plan of the day before
It is a must to fast for at least eight to ten hours before getting cholesterol testing done. Since it is difficult to stay without eating for so long, it is advised to get the test conducted in the morning time. In this way most of the fasting hours are spent sleeping. Drinking water is allowed during this time and every other beverage like coffee or tea ought to be avoided.
If the person is under some type of medication, then they need to update their physician well in advance about it, so that if the doctor feels that the particular medicine might affect the cholesterol test results, they can suggest discontinuing the same for a few days until the test is done.
One should eat in moderation the day before the cholesterol test is scheduled. The meal plan should contain vegetables and proteins and completely avoid fatty or fried foods. Experiencing pangs of hunger is natural on this day; however, there should not be any kind of indulgence due to this.
It is essential to prepare for the cholesterol testing properly to make sure that you get the correct results.
How to Prevent High Cholesterol?
High cholesterol can be prevented by ensuring that one leads a healthy lifestyle by following the below guidelines:
- Avoid harmful fatty foods
- Stop smoking
- Do not stress
Although, fat is essential for the body, harmful fats should be completely avoided. It is best to eat a diet low in fat and cholesterol.
A work out regime is extremely essential to stay fit and fine!
Smoking is a major cause for many grave diseases and should be stopped completely.
Continuous stress can raise cholesterol levels. So do not take stress and stay healthy!