The Hidden Truth About High Cholesterol


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Hyperlipidemia, or high cholesterol in common language, refers to the condition that presents in the blood serum lipid profile as cholesterol levels of more than 240 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter). A cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL is considered desirable, whereas 200–240 mg/dL is considered moderately to borderline high. Cholesterol is a fatty substance – chemically a sterol lipid – that is an essential ingredients of many physiological body functions, but spells danger to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular health if it reaches high concentrations in the blood.

High Cholesterol

With high cholesterol, these fatty substances stick to the inner walls of large and medium-sized arteries. With time these patches of deposits harden to form a plaque, leading to loss of arterial wall elasticity and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). The plaque also makes the interior space in the arteries narrow, hindering blood flow to the heart, brain and kidneys. Restricted blood flow causes a host of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and kidney diseases, such as heart attack, stroke, paralysis, and kidney failure. These conditions can cause death if the blockage is more than 70–80%. Athersclerosis can affect arteries of other organs too.

The condition of high cholesterol does not present any easily recognizable symptoms of its own, so you could be suffering from this condition for years without even being aware of it. That is why it is important to get an annual blood lipid profile done after age 35 or 40. Sometimes high cholesterol gets detected while being diagnosed for health problems arising from partial artery blockage, for example, dizziness, vertigo, and high blood pressure. So, the best way to keep your cholesterol levels under check is through regular blood tests.

The Good, the Bad, and. . . .

When one talks of high cholesterol, one talks of high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol – the so-called bad cholesterol that promotes the build-up of plaque in the arteries. But what causes the condition of high cholesterol to develop? Several factors bring on high cholesterol levels in the blood. One of the most important is low HDL (high-density lipoprotein) in the blood. This so-called good cholesterol helps to transport excess cholesterol away from the arteries and tissues to the liver for breakdown and disposal. But again, what causes the HDL levels to become low?

The same elements that raise the bad cholesterol (LDL) level can also lower the good cholesterol (HDL) level. For example, dietary cholesterol from egg yolk, saturated fats from whole-cream dairy products, and commercial bakery items, all contribute to bad high cholesterol. You can add organ meats and trans fats from deep-fried foods to this list. Sadly, they do nothing to raise the HDL. Obesity increases the LDL and total cholesterol, as well as decreases the HDL, acting like a double-edged sword.

Good News

But the good news is that regular physical exercise can also play a dual role in fighting high cholesterol. That is, it lowers the LDL and total cholesterol while raising the HDL at the same time. Other than diet and obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking and consuming too much alcohol also contribute to high cholesterol.

Heredity and aging are two contributory factors that one does not have much control over. But adopting an active lifestyle and a low-cholesterol diet can make a difference. Your diet should consist of healthy kinds of fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated vegetable oils, omega-3 fats). Also eat fiber-rich whole grains and cereals, and loads of fresh fruits and vegetables. This diet can help you in overcoming the problem of high cholesterol despite heredity and age.

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