Symptoms of high cholesterol in women
Let’s look at symptoms of high cholesterol in women and why it matters so much. We read a lot these days about high cholesterol LDL and bad cholesterol, even the foods that we eat are filled with sugar and saturated fat that can add to elevated cholesterol. Elevated cholesterol is a total cholesterol level 200 mg/DL or ABOVE, as lot of women don’t have a clue as to what their total cholesterol is which means they just aren’t aware of the risks associated with LDL bad cholesterol and triglycerides.
What are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood increasing the risk in women of a heart attack or stroke if is usually measured along with total cholesterol levels. The risk is increased because cholesterol measurements in women can fluctuate quite a bit following the menopause it also tends to increase with ageing so finding out your total cholesterol and triglycerides numbers is a step in the right direction towards a healthy body.
Understanding good and bad cholesterol
Numerous studies have shown that bad cholesterol is dangerous but what defines bad cholesterol? Is too much bad for you? What is cholesterol anyway?
The cells in your body produce cholesterol, it’s a sort of wax like material we also get cholesterol from foods that we EAT. We need cholesterol to produce important things like oestrogen, vitamin d and progesterone, cholesterol also makes bile acids in your liver to digest food when you eat.
We know that our bodies need cholesterol however too much is bad for us because when it is floating around in your blood some of it can stick to the arterial walls, we call this plaque build-up it leads to hardening of the arteries or another word used is Atherosclerosis is a major factor in causing heart attacks and stroke.
What is total cholesterol?
After your blood test the results are broken down into total cholesterol which is the combination of the good cholesterol HDL and bad cholesterol LDL
- Good cholesterol HDL means high density lipoprotein because it does all the good jobs in the body.
- Bad cholesterol LDL means low density lipoprotein because it makes the plaque build-up in your arteries.
Here’s what happens, particles are floating around your bloodstream some of these are LDL or bad cholesterol that cling to the arterial wall, over time it starts to build up and your body thinks that it needs to respond by creating inflammation, but this only causes more damage to the arteries. The arteries become harder they begin to narrow this leads to a restriction on the much-needed blood flow to the major organs such as the heart and brain.
The heart is put under too much pressure and this causes high blood pressure, the bigger danger is that this plaque may rupture and cause a stroke or heart attack. This process can start early in life in some people as early as in their 20s.
Triglycerides are dangerous
Women need to take heed of high levels of triglycerides because it has a more significant impact on your risk of heart disease compared to men, triglycerides are another type of fat that contributes to the build-up of plaque. These are linked to the food that we eat so when we eat too many calories they are turned into triglycerides and stored in fat cells. Triglycerides are useful from an energy point of view but too much of them can lead to an increase in your risk of heart disease.
Foods that produce triglycerides and should be avoided are snack bars, crisps, chocolate or any food that contains saturated fats or trans fats. Health conditions such as an underactive thyroid, diabetes, kidney disease, obesity, polycystic ovary disease contribute to high levels of triglycerides. There are other factors that also contribute to atherosclerosis and they are
- Abnormal glucose levels
- Elevated LDL
- Low HDL levels
What is normal cholesterol?
The normal blood test to establish your total cholesterol is called a lipid profile, the figures are taken from a measurement of HDL, LDL and triglycerides so what should normal cholesterol be?
A desirable level of LDL would be less than 100 mg/DL for women the HDL level should be more than 50 mg/DL your triglycerides ideally below 150 mg/DL adding the three together gives a total cholesterol level of 200 mg/DL which is ideal.
Why does cholesterol affect women in a different way?
Women in general compared to men have higher levels of the good cholesterol HDL it is thought that oestrogen (female sex hormone) gives a boost to good cholesterol as you enter the menopause cholesterol levels change along with other changes in the body. It won’t be a surprise to some women that even though they may have never had a problem with cholesterol levels during their earlier years that may change after the menopause family history also plays a part.
Symptoms of high cholesterol levels
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Heart attack
- Leg pain when walking due to poor blood flow
Tips to lower cholesterol
Your doctor has informed you that your cholesterol is high, depending on the numbers a statin drug may be prescribed as a treatment to lower your cholesterol, other factors are also taken into consideration such as your age, blood pressure, raised blood sugars or whether you smoke or not. If there is a family history of heart disease more than likely a statin drug will be used as a treatment.
What else can you do?
The two things that are recommended are your diet and your lifestyle, by changing what you eat and how you exercise can have a major impact on the effectiveness of cholesterol lowering medications, these tips will help
- Eat plenty of fruit & vegetables, eat oats and beans to reduce LDL
- Keep away from sugary drinks and juices, drink water or tea instead
- Use olive oil instead of butter
- Eat nutty grain bread
- Consider fatty fish like salmon or mackerel
- Consider a Mediterranean diet full of vegetables, fruit and nuts
- Don’t smoke
- Alcohol in moderation
- Get a minimum of 30 minutes daily exercise at least 5 days per week.