This article is Medically Approved ✓ by Dr. Edward Salko
More often than not, we think of negative connotations when we hear the term cholesterol. If we play the game of word association, we’d probably relate cholesterol to heart disease, hypertension, and stroke.
Nevertheless, cholesterol isn’t bad, not at all. In fact it is a natural fat-like component of all cells in our body and is used in producing essential compounds such as Vitamin D, fat-dissolving bile acids, and sex hormones. Cholesterols are produced by the liver and they can also be acquired from the food we eat.
So when did the cholesterol get its bad reputation? Cholesterols became a household name when medical experts have found that high cholesterol is linked to cardiovascular and other critical diseases typically related to aging and fat metabolism.
Cholesterols can only circulate the bloodstream when they are combined with a protein that specifically accommodates fats (lipids) known as lipoproteins. These lipoproteins can be categorized into two: the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and the low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
HDLs collect cholesterols from different body cells and deliver them to the liver for synthesis or excretion from the body. Hence, they are often called “good cholesterols”.
LDLs perform the task of distributing cholesterols from the liver to the body cells. When these cells have received enough for their own use, the excessive cholesterol would accumulate in the arterial walls. This accumulation leads to cardiovascular diseases, hence, LDLs are known as “bad cholesterols”.
It is quite clear that increased LDLs have a direct effect on the risk of acquiring cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis, stroke, etc., as it indicates a higher build-up of cholesterol in the arteries. On the other hand, increased HDL supports the notion that more cholesterol is getting rid of and/or processed by the liver.
For years, people had the understanding that an increased HDL can protect you from heart diseases as opposed to elevated LDLs causing these diseases. It has always been good cholesterol VS the bad cholesterol.
However, despite the clear differences between the two lipoproteins, a 2018 study on high levels of good cholesterol have shown that having excessive HDL does not exempt anyone from the increased risk of cardiovascular disorders.
As a matter of fact, according to the author of published research study, Dr. Marc Allard-Ratick, elevated HDLs might as well represent dysfunctional HDLs. In this case, instead of protection from the notable cholesterol-related diseases, the increased HDLs may even promote them.
In a nutshell, there is no triumph in having high cholesterol regardless of it being good or bad.
Figuring out if you have excessive cholesterols in your blood can be very tricky since there are no clear symptoms.
For some people, they only discover their cholesterol problems once they are caught in a life-threatening condition such as heart attack, angina, or stroke.
If symptoms are not observed, how else can we detect high cholesterol?
Fortunately, specific blood tests were designed to measure cholesterol levels. Quite frankly, this is a thousand miles better than those life-threatening conditions in terms of finding out that you do have high cholesterol.
In addition, in the absence of symptoms, warning signs of cholesterol problems can also be translated into risk factors that could trigger the condition.
Here are some factors that could increase your chances of having high cholesterol levels.
1. Poor diet – A diet composed heavily of saturated fat from processed meat, dairy products, deep and fried food may increase blood cholesterol.
2. Sedentary Lifestyle – As most average workers today spend their working hours sitting in from of a computer, essential physical activities such as exercise are neglected. The sedentary lifestyle that we’re all familiar with limits fat metabolism and by extension the regulation of LDL into normal levels. It is also linked to obesity and other weight disorders.
3. Age – The older we get, the less functional our liver becomes leading to lesser cholesterol being excreted from the body.
4. Smoking – Cigarette smoking increases LDLs and triglycerides also known as the blood fat. It also lowers the HDL at a significant level leading to lesser cholesterol removal activity.
5. Family History – Genetic disposition also influence the amount of cholesterol our liver can produce. A family history of high cholesterol or heart disease can be a clear sign to secure early diagnosis or monitoring.
As challenging as it may be to detect high cholesterol levels, it is quite clear that the effort to lower your blood cholesterol levels or simply reduce the risk requires a commitment to change, particularly in the factors that could trigger the condition.
1. Create a healthy, heart-friendly diet plan
2. Increase your physical activity
3. Quit smoking
4. Manage your stress and maintain proper rest
5. Have a regular cholesterol assessment
Blood tests for cholesterol levels including triglycerides have long been available even those performed at home. If you are at risk of high cholesterol which in turn could indicate a high likelihood of developing heart disease, atherosclerosis, angina, stroke, and other related medical conditions based on the pre-indicators of cholesterol problems, contact your healthcare provider for early screening.
You can also have the option of availing cholesterol and heart health panels online through telemedicine providers with proper consultation from your doctor.
The earlier the medical condition is detected, the higher the chances of a successful treatment that could restore your good health in no time.