Cholesterol


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Cholesterol

High cholesterol levels in the body may increase the risks of some severe medical conditions, such as heart attacks, strokes, narrow arteries, peripheral arterial disease, and mini stroke. When cholesterol builds on the walls of the artery, it restricts the flow of blood into the heart, brain and other parts of the body. The risks of possible blood clot and coronary heart disease also increase.

Causes of High Cholesterol

High cholesterol levels have been attributed to various factors, such as poor diet, especially consumption of excess saturated fat, lifestyle behaviors (smoking), medical conditions (high blood pressure and diabetes), and hereditary factors, which cause familial hypercholesterolemia.

  • Lifestyle: Some of the lifestyle factors include poor dieting, inactivity (not exercising), overweight/obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking.
  • Health factors: Diabetes and high blood pressure patients in most cases have high cholesterol. Others include liver disease, kidney disease and hypothyroidism. When the underlying health factors are managed or treated, then the cholesterol problem is solved.
  • Fixed factors: These are factors that cannot be changed, such as the past history of your family of cholesterol-related complications and coronary heart disease, age, ethnicity, and sex.

Irrespective of the cause of high cholesterol, this condition is highly treatable. You just need to talk to your general practitioner for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Cholesterol Testing

There are a number of pointers that you need to watch out before seeing a doctor. In most instances, your cholesterol will be tested the moment you test positive of conditions, such as peripheral arterial disease, stroke/mini stroke, and coronary heart disease. It is also recommended to get tested if you are overweight, or if you have the history of cardiovascular or cholesterol-related complications in the family or health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Cholesterol levels are measured in millimoles against the blood volumes (mmo/L). Your doctor will inform you on the risk levels after conducting the requisite tests.

During tests, the levels of cholesterol are classified in three categories: high density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol), low density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) and triglycerides. Before the tests, the doctor may ask you not to eat for up to 12 hours. This is designed to ensure complete digestion of food which is important in boosting the accuracy of the tests. The outcome of cholesterol tests can be used to determine the risks of cardiovascular disease for up to 10 years.

The risk of cholesterol-related problems also increases with other factors, such as body mass index, treatable health conditions like hypertension, age, and sex. Studies have established that people with inherited cholesterol, also known as familial hypercholesterolaemia, have a higher risk of getting cardiovascular disease. However, a sizeable percentage of people with the condition don't know and therefore haven't a sought treatment of the same. To lower the risk of the disease, regular testing is recommended for both children and adults.

How to lower levels of cholesterol

It is possible to manage your cholesterol levels. Some of the recommended ways to realize this is through:

  • Reduce consumption of high-cholesterol diets, minimize fatty foods;
  • Consume more fruits, wholegrain cereals and vegetables;
  • Exercise regularly to burn excess;
  • Quit smoking.

In case the above lifestyle choices don't help reduce the levels of cholesterol, then you can talk to your doctor about using medications such as statins. Before any drug is prescribed, your physician will consider a number of factors, such as side effect risks.

Treatment

The doctor, upon accurate diagnosis of high cholesterol, can either advise you to adjust your lifestyle, exercise of recommend some medicine to help lower cholesterol. A combination of all the above is in most cases recommended for the best effect. In most cases, proper diet and quitting smoking are the surest ways to keep your cholesterol in check.

1. Proper diet: Adherence to a proper diet, one with low saturated fats, is the surest way to manage your cholesterol. You should avoid, or limit consumption of ghee, lad and butter, fatty meat and products like pies and sausage, cakes, biscuits, coconut oil, palm oil and their products, cheese, cream and cream products. It is recommended that saturated fat should make up approximately of 11% of energy foods' consumption. Of course, children should consume it less than adults.

2. Omega-3 fatty acids: Nutritionists recommend consumption of omega-3-acid foods such as oily fish and avocado. However, overconsumption of the same may cause obesity.

3. Drugs: In the event of the above options don't help lower cholesterol levels; you may have to try out pharmaceutical drugs. Upon successful diagnosis, your doctor will guide you on the type of medicine you should use to check your cholesterol. In some cases, you may also have to take hypertension drugs at the same time, that is, if the doctor things your blood pressure is higher-than-normal. The following are some of the common medication for high cholesterol treatment:

  • Statins: These drugs work by blocking enzymes responsible for production of cholesterol. This eventually helps lower cholesterol levels. Some common statins include Atorvastatin, Rosuvastatin and Simvastatin. Some people develop intolerance, and experience side effects, such as headaches, stomach complications like diarrhea, indigestion and constipation, and muscle pains. These medicines are only prescribed to patients with high heart disease risks dues to high cholesterol.
  • Aspirin: This may be prescribed in low daily doses depending on a number of factors such as the cholesterol risk factors and age. The drug helps by preventing blood clotting, especially in people with a history of heart attacks, has a high risk of cardiovascular disease or a history of the same. Regular blood tests may be recommended just to ascertain proper functioning of the liver.
  • Ezetimibe: This drug works by blocking cholesterol absorption by the blood from food as well as bile juices in intestines. Even though this drug is considered to be less effective than statins, it doesn't cause side effects. In some cases, Ezetimibe is prescribed alongside statins if the effect of statins fails to lower cholesterol levels as required. A combination of the two may cause similar adverse effects as using statins, which are stomach complications and muscle pain.

Bottom line

Even though high cholesterol can be treated, it is highly recommended that you work towards its prevention. Make it a priority to adhere to a strict low-cholesterol diet, exercise regularly to burn excess fat, and change your lifestyle behaviors such as smoking and alcohol consumption.