You’re probably familiar with the proverb that “too much of a good thing may turn bad,” and this holds in the case of cholesterol. Our bodies are capable of producing the components required to carry out necessary functions, such as the formation of new cells and the production of hormones. However, an excessive amount can cause blockages in the arterial highways and make it difficult for blood to move throughout the body. When this occurs, you put yourself at significant risk for major health problems such as coronary heart disease, which is the leading cause of mortality in the United States, as well as stroke.
The fact that there are typically no warning signals associated with high cholesterol is one of the things that people who have it do not realize. Many people don’t become aware that they have a common ailment until something serious happens to them, such as a heart attack. The risk of developing high cholesterol is rather high and affects a greater number of people than you may believe. Nearly 94 million persons in the United States aged 20 or older have total cholesterol levels that are more than 200 mg/dL, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are 28 million adults in the United States who have total cholesterol levels that are higher than 240 milligrams per deciliter.
The secret to a longer and healthier life lies in understanding the factors that can lead to high cholesterol, as well as the steps that can be taken to help prevent the condition, the lifestyle decisions that can make a difference, and the diagnostic tests that can determine whether or not you have elevated levels. Consume This and Not That! Health spoke with Sean Marchese, MS, RN, a registered nurse at The Mesothelioma Center with a background in oncology clinical trials and over 20 years of direct patient care experience, who explains what you should know about cholesterol and how to tell if you have too much of it. Sean Marchese is also an expert on the subject of mesothelioma. As usual, we strongly encourage you to discuss any potential health concerns with your attending physician. Continue reading, and make sure you don’t miss any of these sure signs that you’ve already had COVID to protect not only your health but also the health of others.
It is common practice to refer to high cholesterol as a “silent killer” because there are typically no symptoms that suggest you have the problem.
According to Vail Health, “a 110-pound lady with a height of 5 feet 4 inches could have a cholesterol count of 250, whereas the cholesterol levels of an overweight woman could be well within the normal range.” It is not sufficient to merely be familiar with your numbers. Guidelines for cholesterol management have been developed by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology. These guidelines take into account factors such as race, age, gender, and more. The calculation determines the likelihood of experiencing a heart attack or stroke during the following ten years. The difference that it makes to your health and lifestyle decisions could be determined by the hazards that you are aware of.
According to Marchese, “High cholesterol does not generate apparent symptoms because by the time it has caused enough damage, it is generally enough to trigger an emergency event, such as a heart attack or stroke.” Marchese describes this phenomenon as follows: Plaque deposits on the walls of vital arteries, which carry oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body, are caused by high cholesterol levels. When plaque has built up to the point that it restricts blood flow, the body is no longer able to compensate for the problem.
Marchese informs us that “There is a certain amount of cholesterol that must be produced by your body for cell membranes, hormones, and vitamin D to be formed. On the other hand, low-density lipoproteins, also known as LDL, are a form of cholesterol that the body does not require and instead stores as plaque in the arterial walls. Consuming foods that are rich in fat content will cause an increase in the quantity of LDL cholesterol found in your body. Diet and exercise can help your body reverse the effects of LDL cholesterol, but if plaque deposits build up at a faster rate than your body can eliminate them, you run the risk of developing life-threatening consequences such as a heart attack or a stroke.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, “The following are examples of factors that can raise your risk of having abnormal cholesterol levels:
–Poor diet. Consuming an inappropriate amount of saturated fat, trans fat, or both can lead to dangerous levels of cholesterol in the body. Saturated fats can be found in foods like fatty cuts of meat and dairy products with full fat. Snacks and desserts that come in a packet frequently include trans fats.
Obesity. If your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher, you have a larger likelihood of suffering from high cholesterol.
–A lack of physical activity. The “good” HDL cholesterol in your body can be increased by engaging in physical activity.
–Smoking. Your amount of HDL, also known as the “good” cholesterol, may decrease if you smoke cigarettes.
–Alcohol. Consuming an excessive amount of alcohol might cause a rise in your body’s total cholesterol level.
–Age. Even very young children can have high levels of cholesterol, although the condition is far more common in adults over the age of 40. As you age, your liver becomes less able to eliminate LDL cholesterol.”
Because cholesterol rarely causes noticeable symptoms before it becomes an emergency, it is vital to get regular checkups that include blood cholesterol levels. Marchese emphasizes, “Managing cholesterol is extremely important because it affects the vital portions of your circulatory system, which feeds organs such as your heart and brain.” Uncontrolled cholesterol can lead to blood clots that cause stroke or heart attack, both of which can be fatal.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Hyperlipidemia, also known as high cholesterol, can be very dangerous if it is not controlled. As long as high cholesterol is untreated, you’re letting plaque accumulate inside of your blood vessels. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke because your blood has a hard time getting through your blood vessels. This deprives your brain and heart of the nutrients and oxygen they need to function. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Americans.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “The only way to know whether you have high cholesterol is to get your cholesterol checked. Your health care team can do a simple blood test, called a “lipid profile,” to measure your cholesterol levels…The cholesterol test, or screening, requires a simple blood draw. You may need to fast (not eat or drink) for 8 to 12 hours before your cholesterol test. Be sure to ask your doctor how to prepare for the test.”
According to Marchese, “Symptoms of high cholesterol are infrequent, so seeing your doctor and having them perform regular blood level measurements is the best way to know if your cholesterol is outside the normal range. If you have a family history of high cholesterol, you may be more prone to elevated cholesterol levels, and you should have your primary care physician monitor your cholesterol levels. Additionally, if you know you have a poor diet or infrequent activity levels, you may be at a higher risk.