Cholesterol is a type of lipid or simply a type of fat required by the cells in the body. Although the body’s requirement of the lipid is fulfilled by the body itself, we generally put in more cholesterol in the body by way of food that we eat. When this level of cholesterol in the blood exceeds that of the requirement of the body, it leads to high cholesterol causing the arteries to choke due to cholesterol build up in them. This hardening of the arteries though is a slow process, but it can lead to problems of the heart and other complications.
Kinds of cholesterol
There are mainly three kinds of cholesterol and these are as follows:
HDL: Also known as, the good cholesterol, the HDL clears the blood from fat. High levels of HDL in the body are not harmful but good as they prevent the clogging of the arteries.
LDL: known as the bad cholesterol, increased levels of LDL can clog the arteries thereby increasing the risk of heart diseases.
Triglycerides: these are a type of fat in the blood and increased levels of triglycerides can increase the odds of having a stroke or a heart attack.
Causes of high cholesterol
Incidents of high cholesterol are due to a number of factors mentioned below:
- Diet: this is one of the basic causes of high cholesterol. A person consuming a carbohydrate and fat-rich diet is prone to having high cholesterol levels. Consumption of too much Trans fat obtained from packaged foods or saturated fats from animals are a cause of high cholesterol.
- Being overweight: if a person is obese or overweight, he is prone to having high cholesterol. A balanced diet if accompanied by exercise can cause the extra cholesterol to be burnt, but in the absence of regular exercise, the fat keeps getting stored in the body.
- Age factor
- Lack of exercise
- Family history
- Other medical complications: hypothyroidism can cause the cholesterol levels to rise.
Symptoms and diagnosis of high cholesterol
There are no sudden symptoms of having high cholesterol levels in the body. A person may be unaware of this despite having high levels of cholesterol. Symptoms usually occur when there is an incidence of heart disease caused due to blocked arteries. High cholesterol induces the process of hardening of arteries and therefore, symptoms of the same occur only when the arteries have already been blocked.
High cholesterol levels can be diagnosed by taking blood tests. These tests include:
Fasting cholesterol test: this tests measures all forms of fat in the blood, that is the HDL, the LDL and the triglycerides. Consumption of food is restricted for 9 to 12 hours before the test to get the correct results.
Simple cholesterol test: this test measures the HDL and the total cholesterol. At times, this test is conducted first to get an overview of the cholesterol level of a person.
Direct LDL test: this test can be done any time of having a meal and it measures the level of the LDL cholesterol in the blood.
Treatment of high cholesterol
Treatment of high cholesterol is necessary to lower the risk of heart diseases. The treatment procedures involve bringing in lifestyle changes and taking medicines. Lifestyle changes include eating a balanced diet, losing excess weight, exercising regularly and quitting smoking. Certain medicines too are helpful in reducing high cholesterol levels bringing them down to healthier levels. While it may not be possible to suddenly, let go of the old habits, but to live a healthy life, one has to bring in these changes, slowly. Planning and starting with small steps is the best way to keep the cholesterol levels in check. A regular check up with the doctor is helpful.