Cholesterol is generally described as a fatlike, waxy substance which is required by the body to function properly. It is naturally present in the cell walls and the membrane at every part of our body. It includes almost every part i.e. brain, muscles, skin, heart, nerves, and heart. The body utilises cholesterol to produce several hormones, bile acids, vitamin D. The blood takes comparatively a very small amount of cholesterol to meet its needs and requirements. In case a person has too much of cholesterol in the bloodstream it gets deposited in the arteries that includes coronary arteries of the heart. It also can get deposited in the arteries of the brain, or arteries which supply blood to the legs.
All these cholesterol deposits are components of plaques which cause narrowing or blockage of arteries besides producing the signs and the symptoms which originates from a particular part of the body where there is decrease in the blood supply. The blockages around the leg arteries are responsible to cause claudication i.e. pain when a person walks due to the peripheral artery disease.
A carotid artery blockage might lead to stroke and blockage in the coronary arteries and would cause angina i.e. chest pain resulting in a heart attack. The primary cause of Coronary Heart Disease is cholesterol and the deposition of fat around the walls of the arteries which supply nutrients as well as oxygen to the heart. Just like any other muscle of the body our heart requires constant supply of nutrients and oxygen. Coronary arteries are the agents responsible to carry out the said task. With the arteries narrowing the supply decreases causing chest pain at the time when the heart stops receiving oxygen.
Cholesterol plaques can entirely rupture and result in blood clot formation which completely blocks the artery. It in turn stops the blood flow and results in a heart attack because the heart muscle cells die due to lack of nutrients or oxygen.
Cholesterol Levels in Individuals
The cholesterol levels widely vary from a person to another. People living in countries like Japan tend have low rates of heart disease. Whereas in countries such as Finland people are high in terms of cholesterol levels which is the reason for higher cases of people suffering from heart diseases. But at some places where people have similar levels of cholesterol levels the number of cases of heart diseases is comparatively lower. This tends to suggest that other factors also influence the coronary heart disease besides cholesterol being the main factor. Moreover high cholesterol levels are more common across men who are younger than 55 years or women who are more than 55 years of age. It has been observed that the risk of cholesterol levels increase with the passing age.
Causes of High Cholesterol
There are numerous factors responsible for high levels of cholesterol levels in individuals. They can include factors such as lifestyle, diet, and heredity. To list down some of the causes they will be:
- Weight: Excess weight is responsible to increase the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in an individual’s body. Thus losing weight can help to lower the LDL and raising the HDL (good).
- Heredity: Genes are also responsible to influence the levels of LDL metabolized in a body. High form of cholesterol is inherited which leads to early heart disease and is termed as Familial hypercholesterolemia.
- Not exercising or physical inactivity: It is very important to perform some sort of exercise on a regular basis in order to lower triglycerides and raise the HDL cholesterol levels.
- Age and gender: Before the phase of menopause women generally have lower levels of cholesterol compared to men of the same age. With increase in age in both men and women the levels of cholesterol tends to increase till the age of 60 to 65 years. After the age of 50 or more the levels of cholesterol in women is generally much more compared to men of same age.
- Consumption of Alcohol: With an average intake of 1 or 2 drinks daily can increase the HDL (good) cholesterol levels but does not help in reducing the LDL (bad) levels. However intake of too much alcohol may lead to heart diseases or liver damage in the human body. It also leads to high blood pressure raising the triglyceride levels. Thus it is recommended that alcoholic beverages are not used in order to prevent heart diseases.
Symptoms of High Cholesterol
High cholesterol levels are also held responsible for risk factors associated with other illness and do not lead to symptoms itself. Regular screening and blood tests reveals the elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood. It has been recommended that every person above the age of 20 years should have their cholesterol levels checked once in every 5 years. The test which can help to measure the cholesterol levels is termed as lipoprotein profile.
Simple precautions and adoption of a healthier lifestyle can easily help to maintain the right levels of cholesterol in humans. Inclusion of Aerobics and other forms of exercises that include some or the other physical activity of the body is highly recommended to be included. Especially people with heavy weight should take measures to control their weights besides reducing it.
Setting up of dietary goals and making it a strict measure to take calories 7% lower than what usually is taken can work wonders. Inclusion of more fibre in the diet that are found in cereals, peas, beans and some forms of fruits and vegetables can also help to maintain or reduce the levels of cholesterol in an individual’s body.
With the increased number of cases its time people become cautions and aware of the do’s and don’ts so that they lead a healthy life rather than suffering from health diseases which can heavily impact their daily life.