We often associate cholesterol with fatty foods, but the reality is our body is responsible for producing the most of this waxy substance. The liver produces more than 75% of the cholesterol that is circulating in our blood stream and the other 25% originates from foods. Normal cholesterol levels play an important role in aiding our body’s cells to perform duties properly. However, cholesterol levels are precariously high in millions of people.
The symptoms of high cholesterol
High cholesterol doesn’t cause any symptoms but can cause serious damage to the body. Over time, excess cholesterol can lead to an accumulation of plaque buildup in the arteries. This is known as atherosclerosis, this condition causes the space available in the vein to shrink obstructing the natural blood flow and trigger cardiovascular diseases. The good news is that high cholesterol is easy to detect and there are many ways to lower it.
Adults over the age of 20 should get their cholesterol levels checked at least every five years. This is done by a simple blood test know as a lipoprotein profile, which is performed while fasting or before eating breakfast. It measures the different types of cholesterol that is circulating in our blood, after period of fasting for at least 12 hours. The results will show the levels of “bad and good” cholesterol and triglycerides.
Proteins called lipoproteins transport the majority of the cholesterol found in the blood stream, which are relatively low density and called LDL. This is considered to be bad cholesterol, as it tends to combine with other substances that obstruct the arteries. A diet high in saturated fats and trans fats tend to elevate the LDL cholesterol levels. For most people, having their LDL levels under 100 is considered to be healthy, but for those suffering from heart disease, it is necessary to have lower levels.
More than one-third of the cholesterol found in our blood is carried by high-density lipoproteins (HDL). This is considered to be good cholesterol because it helps to eliminate the bad cholesterol, avoiding accumulation of plaques in arteries. The higher levels of good cholesterol (HDL) in the blood stream the better. Individuals with low levels of this type of cholesterol are susceptible to developing cardiovascular diseases. Consuming healthy fats such as olive oil can help to increase the HDL cholesterol levels.
The body converts excess calories, sugar and alcohol into triglycerides. This is a type of fat that floats around in our blood stream and collects fatty cells throughout the body. Individuals who are overweight, sedentary, smokers or consume alcoholic beverages daily, tend to have high levels of triglycerides, as well, those whom have a diet high in carbohydrates. A score of triglycerides higher than 150 puts the individual at risk of metabolic syndrome, which is directly related to cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Factors that increase your risk of high cholesterol
There are various factors that can affect your chances of developing high levels of cholesterol:
A diet high in saturated fats and cholesterol
Family history of high cholesterol
Being overweight or obese
The simple fact of aging