Cholesterol | complications | Risk factors
Cholesterol is a white, waxy, fatty substances. It is made in the liver and released into the blood stream. Cholesterol can also be obtained from food [Heart foundation, 2013]. Cholesterol is essential for the formation of bile acids which allow you to be able to digest fats. Cholesterol is also utilized by the body to produce hormones and cell membranes.
Hypercholesterolemia refers to levels of cholesterol in the blood that are higher than normal. Normal blood cholesterol level is a number driven by laboratory analysis. A normal or desirable cholesterol level is defined as less than 200 mg of cholesterol per deciliter of blood (mg/dl). Elevated cholesterol level is 240 mg/dl or above. Elevated blood cholesterol is considered to be hypercholesterolemia [Medical dictionary]
Familial hypercholesterolemia is an inherited condition characterized by very high levels of cholesterol in the blood. People with familial hypercholesterolemia have a high risk of developing a form of heart disease called coronary artery disease at a young age [US. National Library of Medicine] [Gafacom]
LDL- low density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called bad cholesterol.
When you have too much LDL circulating in your blood it can build up the inner walls of your heart arteries. Over time this forms plaque. Plaques narrows your arteries and puts you at an increased risk of having a heart attack or a stroke [WbMd]
HDL – High density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called good cholesterol
High levels of HDL have been shown to protect against heart attack. Low levels lf HDL however can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke [WbMd]
Risk factors [Your Guide To Lowering Cholesterol with TLC, 2005]
Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat make your blood cholesterol level go up. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level.
Saturated fat, a type of fat found mostly in foods that come from animals; Trans-fat, found mostly in foods made with hydrogenated oils and fats such as stick margarine, crackers, and French fries; and Cholesterol, which comes only from animal products. These three can make your LDL levels rise
Excess weight tends to increase your LDL level. Also, it typically raises triglycerides, a fatty substance in the blood and in food, and lowers HDL. Losing the extra pounds may help lower your LDL and triglycerides, while raising your HDL.
- Physical activity
Not being physically active is a risk factor for heart disease. Regular activity can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol levels
- Age and gender
As women and men get older, their cholesterol levels rise. Before the age of menopause, women have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After the age of menopause women’s LDL levels tends to rise. Blood cholesterol begins to rise around age 20 and continues to go up until about age 60 or 65. Before age 50, men’s total cholesterol levels tend to be higher than those of women of the same age after age 50
Your genes partly determines how much cholesterol your body makes. High blood cholesterol can run in families.
High blood sugar contributes to higher levels of a dangerous cholesterol, LDL and lower HDL cholesterol. High blood sugar also damages the lining of your arteries.
Cigarette smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, making them more prone to accumulate fatty deposits. Smoking might also lower your level of HDL cholesterol.
Complications of hypercholesterolemia [MayoClinic]
- Angina (Chest pain). This can happen if the arteries that supply your heart with blood are affected and other symptoms of coronary artery disease may start to show
- Heart attack. If plaques tear or rupture, a blood clot can form at the plaque-rupture site blocking the flow of blood or breaking free and plugging an artery downstream
- Stroke. Similar to a heart attack, a stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to part of your brain.
Heart disease is the number one killer of women and men in the United States. Each year more than a million Americans have heart attacks and about a half million people die from heart disease