Cholesterol is a vital to our body's regular functioning. But when Cholesterol levels in the blood become too high, it puts us at risk of a heart attack due to lack of symptoms. Cholesterol is manufactured by the body and is found in every cell of the body. Our bodies also gain Cholesterol through food.

121

Importance of Cholesterol:

It has four important natural functions:

  • Contributes to cell wall structure

  • Constitutes the digestive bile acids in the intestine

  • Enables the production of produce vitamin D in the body

  • Facilitates the production of certain hormones

Cholesterol is waxy and looks like fat, it is oil-based and does not mix with blood, which is water-based. This mean that lipoproteins in the blood carry Cholesterol around the body.

There are 2 types of Lipoproteins:

  • Low-density lipoprotein or LDL (cholesterol carried by this type is known as 'bad' cholesterol).

  • High-density lipoprotein or HDL (cholesterol carried by this type is known as 'good' cholesterol). HDL carries the Cholesterol to the liver for removal.

High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for coronary heart disease. Lowing blood lipid levels decrease the risk of heart attacks.

When the LDL levels in the blood are high, Cholesterol builds up in the arteries, narrowing the arteries. This process is called atherosclerosis, in which plaques form and cause restriction of blood flow.

Diet & Exercise

High cholesterol levels can be modified by diet and exercise- less saturated fat, no trans-fat, and increase in activity. Cholesterol levels are manageable when the intake of fat is restricted. Foods that need to be restricted or avoided include:

  • Animal foods that boost Cholesterol include egg yolks, meat and cheese

  • Meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods all contain saturated fat

  • Fried and processed foods that contain trans-fat

Being obese or overweight causes high Cholesterol. Another factor is genetic – extremely elevated levels of LDL are caused by Familial Hypercholesterolemia, an inherited condition.

Risk Factors

The following diseases are also risk factors for High Cholesterol:

  • Diabetes
  • Liver or Kidney disease
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • Pregnancy and any condition that increases levels of female hormones
  • Underactive thyroid gland
  • Some drugs such as Progestins, Anabolic Steroids & Corticosteroids may raise LDL cholesterol levels and reduce HDL (good) cholesterol levels in the blood.

The main group of Cholesterol - lowering medicines are:

  • Statins or HMG CoA reductase inhibitors, such as Crestor, Rovastat, etc.

  • Selective Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors

  • Resins

  • Fibrates

  • Niacin

Silent Killer

There are no symptoms of High Cholesterol & the only way to detect it is through regular checkups and blood tests. Healthcare professionals recommend that people over the age of 20 years should check their cholesterol levels once every five years. Medicines for lowering Cholesterol are recommended when cholesterol levels are between 130 mg/dL and 190 mg/dL.