What does cholesterol do?
What does cholesterol do is a very good question because cholesterol is a waxy like substance that our bodies need to produce certain hormones, protect nerves and make cell tissue but too much cholesterol especially “bad” cholesterol can be detrimental to your health.
Where does cholesterol come from?
In the normal way cholesterol is produced by your liver, we also get cholesterol from certain foods that we eat including meat, eggs and dairy products, cholesterol is thought of in terms of good cholesterol or bad cholesterol, so what’s the difference.?
Good and bad cholesterol
Good cholesterol or medically known as HDL or high density lipoprotein, this is the good guy because it takes cholesterol through absorption and sends it back to the liver.
On the other hand bad cholesterol medically known as LDL or low density lipoprotein makes up the majority of cholesterol in your body.
This is the had guy because too much LDL can put you at risk of a heart attack or stroke if it isn’t taken care of by dieting, medication or by using cholesterol lowering supplement.
Why you could be at risk
If your cholesterol total level is higher because of elevated HDL levels you won’t be at risk of a heart attack or stroke.
If your cholesterol total level is higher because of elevated LDL levels then you are more than likely to be at risk of a cardiovascular event, this is one of the answers to what does high cholesterol do.
Triglycerides are another part of the cholesterol equation, these are a kind of fat in your blood, eating more calories than your body needs can turn them into Triglycerides.
Changes in your diet and lifestyle can help to improve overall cholesterol levels, lower LDL and triglycerides.
What is ideal cholesterol?
All the research will point to the ideal cholesterol level being :
• Total cholesterol less than 200 (under 5 mmol/l in this part of the world)
• LDL less than 130 depending on heart disease risks, 3 mmol/l for healthy adults or 2 mmol/l for those at high risk
• HDL higher than 60 is ideal
• Triglycerides below 150 mgs per definite
What are the symptoms of high cholesterol?
One of the issues with high cholesterol is you could have it and may not know you have it, for example blood is circulated around your body through blood vessels problems arise when too much bad LDL cholesterol combines with other harmful proteins to form plaque.
It happens gradually over time the plaque grows and sticks to the walls of the arterial blood vessels, this causes a blockage that prevents blood flow to your heart and other major organs.
The second issue that could happen is that the plaque could break apart and form a blood clot that impedes the blood flow.
When an artery leading to the heart becomes clogged up or blocked it can lead to a heart attack, a blocked artery that leads to the brain can lead to a very serious stroke.
How do you know if your cholesterol is high?
To be honest you may not know if you have high cholesterol unless you have a blood test done in your doctors surgery, or if you go to your optician he may see tell tale signs from your eye test that your cholesterol is high.
Quite a lot of people don’t find out that they have high cholesterol until a life threatening event happens, then it may be too late to do anything about it, this is one of the things related to what does high cholesterol do.
What are the causes of high cholesterol?
Your liver makes cholesterol and you get it from your food, certain foods high in fat can add to your total cholesterol level. A contributing factor to high Triglycerides may be a sedentary lifestyle or a lack of proper exercise, a good exercise strategy each week can work in your favour in terms of lowering your LDL levels.
On the other hand a lack of exercise or none at all can have a negative effect on your HDL levels in terms of lowering the good cholesterol which is something that you don’t need.
Family history plays a part in some cases research has proven that there is a link between family that have high cholesterol and heart disease.
Smoking increases your risk of high cholesterol because each time you inhale cigarette smoke your blood pressure and heart rate rise albeit temporarily, this puts more pressure on your heart and makes it pump faster increasing its work load.
Smoking damages your body in a number of ways;
• Increases inflammation
• Tars your lungs
• Increases clotting
• Makes your blood thicker
• Bone become weaker
• Weakens the immune system
• Lowers your HDL (good cholesterol)
What are lipoproteins?
Cholesterol is transported in your arteries by proteins, when HDL and LDL combine they are called lipoproteins, HDL and LDL are the two main types, high density lipoprotein brings cholesterol from the bodies cells and into the liver, it is referred to as good cholesterol because of this important job.
Low density lipoprotein LDL brings the cholesterol to the cells that require it, if the cells don’t need all of it a build up can occur in the artery walls, that is why it is referred to as bad cholesterol.
Recommended cholesterol levels
Doctors and scientists recommend an ideal total cholesterol level, this will vary and tend to be lower for those at a higher risk of heart disease, if you have high cholesterol there are other factors that will increase 6our risk, they include;
• Bad diet, particularly eating foods high in saturated fats
• Diabetes or blood pressure
• Bad family history
• Smoking causes arteries to narrow
• Familial hypercholesterolemia (causes high cholesterol)
Reasons to lower your cholesterol
All the scientific evidence points to high cholesterol as a marker for
• Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries)
• Heart attack
• TIA (mini stroke)
• PAD or peripheral artery disease
Bad cholesterol can over time build up into plaque in the artery walls causing a restriction to the blood supply going to your heart and brain, it also raises the chances of a blood clot forming in the body.
Other risks to having high cholesterol is coronary heart disease, symptoms may include chest pain, arm pain during physical exercise or stress.
How do you reduce cholesterol levels?
The best place to start is to look at your diet, is it healthy and balanced or is it high in fatty foods, swap the fatty foods for wholegrain, fruit and vegetables, you can achieve a lot by having a balanced healthy diet.
Eat foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids like salmon, mackerel, walnuts, almonds and some eggs. Choose to eat healthier fats like low fat dairy, lean meat, chicken, nuts or avocados.
If you smoke please try to stop, smoking does contribute to heart disease and lung cancer, organize to go for a brisk walk for 30-45 minutes at least four times a week, walking will have a positive effect on your bad cholesterol levels.
Try to change your diet along with regular exercise first, if that doesn’t bring your cholesterol down to the recommended levels you may need go see your doctor to discuss cholesterol lowering medications like NSAIDs or statins.
Your doctor will recommend that you get your blood cholesterol levels done if you:
• Are overweight
• Your blood pressure is high
• You have family history of heart disease
• You have had a stroke or peripheral artery disease
• You have diabetes
• You are over 35 Male
• You are over 45 female
• You are over 20 and a risk for heart disease
• You are a teenager on certain medications or a strong family history
Can you live with high cholesterol?
Of course we now know what does cholesterol do and yes you can live with high cholesterol providing you follow the guidelines outlined on this post and you follow your doctors advice.
High cholesterol does mean that you are twice more likely to progress to heart disease, keep your cholesterol levels under control especially if heart disease runs in the family.
Even if you take statin drugs or cholesterol lowering supplements it’s important to incorporate a good healthy diet and regular exercise into your lowering cholesterol strategy.
I hope that you now know the answer to what does cholesterol do, if you are worried about your cholesterol levels go to your doctor for a blood lipid test to determine your total cholesterol levels, from you and your doctor can work out a plan to lower your cholesterol.
If you have chest pain feel stressed or very tired on a regular basis make it your business to visit a hospital or your doctor without delay, this action could save your life, don’t be a statistic follow up on any of the symptoms mentioned.
I wish you the best of health,