Hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol, occurs when there is too much cholesterol in the body. Cholesterol is a soft, waxy, fat-like substance that is a natural component of all the cells of the body. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. Any added cholesterol, which comes through the foods you eat, can cause harm.
High cholesterol raises your risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. When there is too much cholesterol circulating in the blood, it can create sticky deposits (called plaque) along the artery walls. Plaque can eventually narrow or block the flow of blood to the brain, heart, and other organs. And blood cells that get caught on the plaque form clots, which can break loose and completely block blood flow through an artery, causing heart attack or stroke.
The normal range for total blood cholesterol is between 140 and 200 mg per decilitre (mg/dl) of blood (usually just expressed as a number). However, the total number doesn’t tell the whole story: There are two types of cholesterol — HDL (high density lipoproteins, or “good” cholesterol) and LDL (low density lipoproteins, or “bad” cholesterol). The amount of HDL relative to LDL is considered a more important indicator of your heart disease risk. There is a third kind of fatty material, triglycerides, found in the blood. They also play a role (generally as triglyceride levels rise, “good” HDL cholesterol falls). When you have high cholesterol, it usually means you have high levels of LDL cholesterol, normal or low levels of HDL cholesterol, and normal or high levels of triglycerides.
More Americans are diagnosed with high cholesterol every year. While heredity may be a factor for some people, the main culprits are lack of exercise and diets high in saturated fat. High cholesterol can be prevented, sometimes with lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) alone. If these do not work, your doctor may recommend medications to lower your cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that’s found in the fats (lipids) in your blood. While your body needs cholesterol to continue building healthy cells, having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.
When you have high cholesterol, you may develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits make it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Your heart may not get as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs, which increases the risk of a heart attack. Decreased blood flow to your brain can cause a stroke.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of fat. It’s found in all the cells in your body and forms part of their outer layer. Cholesterol is also an essential part of many important hormones including oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
There are two main types of cholesterol.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This is also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis – a process in which fatty deposits build up on the walls of your arteries. This can reduce or block the blood flow in your arteries, leading to heart disease and stroke.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. This is also known as ‘good’ cholesterol. It carries excess cholesterol out of your blood to your liver, where it’s processed and removed from your body.
Your risk of heart disease and stroke is particularly high if you have high levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol.
Sources of cholesterol
There are two different sources of cholesterol – some comes from the food you eat, but most of it is made within your body.
Cholesterol that comes from the food you eat is called dietary cholesterol. Not many foods actually contain cholesterol. Examples of some that do are:
Eating foods that are high in cholesterol won’t usually raise your blood cholesterol level much. Most cholesterol is made within your body, in your liver. Your liver can produce all of the cholesterol your body needs so dietary cholesterol isn’t an essential part of your diet. Your cholesterol levels are mainly influenced by the other fats that you eat.
The saturated fats you eat have the biggest impact on cholesterol levels in your body. Saturated fats cause levels of LDL cholesterol to rise in your blood, in proportion to HDL cholesterol. This raises your risk of heart disease and stroke. It’s important to limit the amount of saturated fats you eat. Saturated fats are found in foods such as meat, cheese, butter, cream and pastries.
Unsaturated fats actually reduce levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood. For this reason they can be a healthy choice, and it’s a good idea to replace saturated fats in your diet with unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils, sunflower spreads, nuts and avocados.
Trans fats are artificially solidified vegetable oils. Similar to saturated fats, trans fats raise levels of LDL cholesterol, so try to save foods containing these fats for an occasional treat. Trans fats are found in many types of processed foods, including, biscuits, cakes and pastries.
Risks of high cholesterol
Evidence strongly indicates that high cholesterol levels can cause narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart attack and stroke.
This is because cholesterol can build up in the artery wall, restricting the flow of blood to your heart, brain and the rest of your body. It also increases the chance of a blood clot developing.
Your risk of coronary heart disease (when your heart’s blood supply is blocked or disrupted) rises as your blood’s cholesterol level increases. Other factors, such as high blood pressure and smoking, increase this risk even more.
Who is at risk?
There are many factors that can increase your chance of having heart problems or stroke if you have high cholesterol. These are called risk factors.
- Some risk factors, such as an unhealthy diet and smoking, can be changed by altering your lifestyle.
- Some risk factors, such as having diabetes or high blood pressure, can be treated with medication.
High Cholesterol Symptoms
The tricky thing about high cholesterol is that you don’t know you have it – it has no symptoms. This is what makes it so lethal and it’s the reason why it’s important to get your cholesterol levels tested and to start treatment if you need it.
But it is simple to see if you may have symptoms of high cholesterol. Look at the list below – if any of them applies to you, then these are symptoms of a high cholesterol lifestyle:
Possible Symptoms of High Cholesterol
- You eat prepared or fast food.
- You eat regular cheese and buy whole milk.
- You smoke.
- You indulge in fatty meats – ribs, bacon or porkchops.
- You get little exercise.
- You are overweight – if so, your body stores more fat and cholesterol.
- You do not check your cholesterol level.
You need to have a check up by a doctor that includes taking a blood sample to measure your cholesterol levels.
While there are no high cholesterol symptoms, you can actually see them from the end-result of high cholesterol on health. These end results are heart attack and stroke.
Let us break each of these two high cholesterol symptoms and look at them in depth.
When you have high cholesterol even though there are no symptoms, the cholesterol itself builds up and clogs the arteries. The outcome is that the blood flow is slowed or stopped completely.
Some high cholesterol symptoms, which may show a sign of heart disease, are:
- Chest pain – When a person experiences this, they describe a feeling of “pressure”, “squeezing”, or a general feeling of “someone sitting on their chest.”
- In addition to the reported pressure, other symptoms can include nausea, shortness of breath, sweating, light headedness or dizziness, and heart palpitations.
- Numbness and/or tingling in the lower extremities.
- A cold sensation in the lower extremities.
- Open sores or ulcers on the lower extremities that do not heal normally.
There are four high cholesterol symptoms pertaining to a stroke although often times this is a sudden event with little or no warning.
The sudden onset of numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
Confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding.
Sudden trouble with vision in one or both eyes.
Dizziness, loss of balance, lack of coordination.
Other symptoms can include, nausea, vomiting, fever, fainting, convulsions, and even coma.
I want to share the story of my uncle who had a stroke in 1991 (he passed away in 2001). He was a healthy person in his fifties and after having a routine checkup, the doctor told him that he had high blood pressure and he had to take care of his diet and take some medicines.
Since my uncle was healthy, there were no symptoms at all and he did not feel anything wrong, he just ignored the medication and continued with his diet as usual. Then few months later, it happened. He had a stroke and from 1991 until he passed away in 2001 he was bedridden and had to be attended daily for washing, feeding and he could not even go to the bathroom.
That’s how silent these symptoms are.
Personally I’ve taken care of my cholesterol by using a very effective supplement, which lowered my cholesterol naturally. The reason for this cholesterol lowering I believe is that this supplement contains a number of proven natural ingredients that lower cholesterol: red yeast, garlic, guggul, policosanol and phytosterols.
It is essential to keep an eye on the cholesterol in the body. There are no particular high cholesterol symptoms that could point to high cholesterol. You need to get a cholesterol test from a lab to find out if your cholesterol level is high or not. However, there are some symptoms that are related to cholesterol and with some other health conditions, which might be a result of high cholesterol itself. If you are suffering from pain in your left side of the chest or in the middle which is termed as Angina, you might have high cholesterol. As mentioned above, high-cholesterol results in blockage in arteries, this results in affecting the blood flow near the heart. The Angina pain is caused due to the same reasons.
Furthermore, there are some other symptoms which one can consider to pay heed to. Lack of exercising, heartburn, unwanted gas, ulcers in the stomach, high blood pressure and lack of diet, could point to the high cholesterol. These symptoms could be a direct result of high cholesterol. It would be wise to get a good check up from the doctor.
Usually, there are two types of cholesterol that we have in our body. The low-density lipoprotein or LDL, and the high-density lipoprotein or HDL is produced in our body. The LDL is also known as the bad cholesterol, because it could create plaque in the arteries’ walls. The LDL could also cause malfunctioning in many other organs such as liver, gall bladder. On the other hand, the HDL is the good cholesterol which cleans the arteries’ walls from the plaque. The food we eat, especially the meat of some animals, contains cholesterol. This additional cholesterol we consume is the LDL, which results in a higher amount of bad cholesterol in our body. If the amount of LDL increases than the HDL, a person gets high cholesterol in the blood which is actually harmful for the body.
Moreover, if, the consumption of cholesterol through diet increases than the normal level, one might get a health condition of high cholesterol. The cholesterol has the tendency to solidify in a normal environment. That is why; high-cholesterol patients are prone to getting heart diseases due to blockage in the arteries near heart. Furthermore, a person with a high amount of cholesterol might get stones in the gall bladder, known as the gallstones. The stones are formed when the cholesterol starts to solidify in the gall bladder along with the produced bile. There are many more diseases and health conditions that are linked to cholesterol. However, it is necessary to know the symptoms associated with the high cholesterol level in the body, in order to prevent other serious health conditions.