Cholesterol FAQs Symptoms and treatment.
What is cholesterol and why is it dangerous?
Cholesterol is an organic compound, a lipid that penetrates into the organism with foodstuffs, as well as forms in the liver. It is required by the body for normal functioning.
But the excess of cholesterol is the first factor for the onset of atherosclerotic plaques in blood vessels and eventually serous heart complications. The norm of blood cholesterol is from 3.6 to 5.2 mmol/L. The upper limit is elevated based on the age of an individual. For instance, the risk of atherosclerosis for people over 50 years of age is substantially raised in the achievement of the limit of 6.2 mmol/L.
Circulating in the blood, when the substance is in excess, has a tendency to stick together and accumulate in the arteries. This prevents normal blood circulation contracting the vessels and causing oxygen hunger. This leads to the inadequate blood supply of the tissues and organs. When the clots are dissimilated, it can cause a formation of a thrombus that provokes embolism, heart attacks, and strokes and can lead to death.
However, cholesterol plays also a beneficial role:
– It has a big role in the production of hormones including testosterone which in their turn regulate many processes in the body including immune protection;
– Under the exposure to sunlight, cholesterol produces vitamin D;
– Breast milk contains a high amount of cholesterol required for baby development;
– It is an significant component of bile that is necessary for digestion;
– It is a building material for all cells of the body.
Low “good” cholesterol causes dysfunctions of the reproductive system, causes infertility, low libido, as well as depressive states with a high risk of suicide. It also causes dysfunctions of the digestive system, development of osteoporosis, diabetes, and other diseases. Namely due to these reasons, it is highly encouraged to lower cholesterol with diet and exercising rather with cholesterol-lowering drugs. They must be used when the level is critical but it’s important to track the level of cholesterol and try to maintain it in the normal range with a lifestyle change.
What is “good” and “bad” cholesterol?
Cholesterol is not soluble in water and in blood too. For its transportation through the blood vessels, special protein compounds are used. These compounds conditionally divide it into 2 types: “bad” and “good”. “Bad” cholesterol is transported and accumulated in the tissues of the body while “good” cholesterol accumulates the excess of lipids and washes them out.
Cholesterol in the blood is always bound to lipids, proteins, and other substances. Such complexes are called lipoproteins. Namely on the composition of the substances in the complexes depends whether cholesterol is “bad” or “good”.
For example, in the composition of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) the cholesterol it is “bad”. The cholesterol from these complexes settles on the walls of blood vessels, forming the so-called cholesterol plaques. Triglycerides (fats) that make the most part of lipoproteins behave in a similar way. But “good” cholesterol is found in high-density lipoprotein (HDL). In this form, it is transferred from the plaques themselves and from other organs to the liver where it is processed. That is, HDL even has a preventive and slightly therapeutic effect.
The “bad” cholesterol is in excess in the presence of negative factors including animal fats consumption but for “good” cholesterol good fats such as Omega-3 found in fish and nuts are needed.
The causes of plaques in the vessels are actually not the level of cholesterol. Cholesterol is a building material that is used to repair damages. It means to minimize the risks of cardiovascular diseases due to cholesterol it is important to eliminate the cause of damage to blood vessels, and not the means that repair them.
What causes “bad” cholesterol increase?
Bad cholesterol can accumulate in the body due to negative factors such as:
– Excess weight is associated with high level of “bad” cholesterol and low level of “good” cholesterol that participates in vital body functions.
– Unhealthy fats in the diet such as fatty pork, beef, and poultry, as well as high-fat dairy products such as butter, cheese, or pastry made with the use of butter or margarine significantly increase cholesterol level.
– Sedentary lifestyle has the same effect on the body as obesity even if your weight is in the normal range. If you seem to have no time and energy for intensive sports, simply add 30-40 minutes of walking to your daily schedule and use the stairs instead of elevators. This will be enough to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disorder to the minimum.
– Age over 50 years is another inevitable risk factor. In people older than twenty years cholesterol gradually but steadily elevates regardless of the eating habits and body shape. In men, the cholesterol level achieved till 50 years remains usually unchanged. But women usually have quite low cholesterol up till menopause and then they experience a sharp increase of it.
– A family history of cardiovascular diseases increases the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. If your parents or grandparents suffer from high cholesterol, make sure to monitor yours to keep it in normal range.
– Smoking the level of “good” cholesterol and eventually can create an imbalance between “good” and “bad” cholesterol and significantly raise the danger of cardiovascular disease development.
– Thyroid gland dysfunction can be a reason for cholesterol elevation. Signs of hypothyroidism are fatigue, drowsiness, hair loss, constipation, and puffiness of the face.
– The raise of cholesterol is also noticed in the impairment of kidney, liver, pancreas function, diabetes type 1 and 2, hypertension, and others.
– Certain medications can raise the level of cholesterol. They include immunosuppressants, hormonal steroids, and oral contraceptives. In the prolonged therapy with these medicines drugs, regular monitoring of cholesterol levels is necessary.
– Another physiological condition that can cause a significant raise of cholesterol is pregnancy. Changes in hormonal levels during gestation promote the lifted production of lipoproteins, and a blood test can show a two-fold raise of cholesterol. This is a norm that helps the development of the baby and the maintenance of the mother's health. Without the risk factors, this condition does not require treatment. Cholesterol does not harm the body and its performance returns to normal after delivery.
How can I lower cholesterol without drugs?
Cholesterol in the blood is found in the form of a compound of lipid and protein called lipoprotein. Depending on the type of the complex compound in general cholesterol analysis is determined molecular weight of lipoproteins. High weight lipoproteins are “good” cholesterol and low molecular weight are called "bad" cholesterol. The ratio of good and bad lipoproteins is called the atherogenic coefficient. It is calculated according to the formula: the difference between total and high-molecular cholesterol is divided by the indicator of low-molecular lipoprotein. The optimal ratio is 3 or less. When the coefficient is 5 or more, it indicates a high risk or incipient development of atherosclerosis.
The practice of reducing cholesterol with medicines has shown that when taking one of the most effective substances - statins - the level of total cholesterol decreases, but the level of “good” cholesterol is lowered by 30% and the “bad” by 50%, which negatively affects the body. In pharmacological practice, two groups of drugs are used for therapy - fibrates and statins.
“Bad” cholesterol level can be easily and harmlessly lowered without the use of medicines, of course, if the level of cholesterol hadn’t caused any serious heart conditions yet. The recommendations include:
– Eat sufficient protein. Proteins strengthen the vessels walls and prevent their damage so the level of cholesterol doesn’t rise for reparation purposes.
– Make sure you receive sufficient vitamins and minerals with food. It is advised to use vitamin supplements periodically.
– Incorporate physical activity in your life. If you don’t have time and energy for gym, at least, start walking for 30-40 minutes a day. Physical exercising doesn’t allow cholesterol to accumulate in the body.
– Eliminate unhealthy fats and replace them with healthy ones. The unhealthy fats include animal fat in pork, poultry, fatty dairy including butter, cheese, and margarine. The healthy fats are contained in nuts, avocado, olives, olive oil, fish, and other products.
– Lose weight. Weight is one of the serious risk factors for “bad” cholesterol accumulation. Therefore, to minimize your risks, you should shed the excessive weight. For this, you should lower the total calorie intake and start moving more. To not starve yourself, replace fast carbs with slow ones, eat vegetables and fruits that will keep you saturated for more time than fast-food and pastry.
What products lower cholesterol in the blood?
The level of “bad” cholesterol is lowered by the consumption of healthy fats. The list includes:
– Fat sea fish (salmon, mackerel and sardines) and seafood;
– Ghee (safest to fry);
– Milk (3-9% fat);
– Olive oil;
– Butter (better buy more than 80% fat content);
– Omega-3 supplements.;
– Sunflower seeds;
How to increase “good” cholesterol level?
To increase “good” cholesterol and lower the “bad” one you should replace unhealthy fats in your diet with the healthy ones (see the list above). Physical exercising also helps aligning the balance between the “good” and “bad” cholesterol as it doesn’t allow the latter to accumulate.
Reduce the amount of simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are "bad" carbohydrates, as they are very quickly processed by our body, which leads to a surge of insulin. Simple carbohydrates are found in cookies, cakes, sweets, cereal, white bread, white rice, chips, and soda.
What drugs are used to lower cholesterol level?
The most effective medicines with the proven effect of lowering cholesterol levels are statins. But these medicines have certain adverse effects including the lowering of the “good” cholesterol. Thus, they mustn’t be used for prophylaxis if you see in your blood tests an elevation of cholesterol. You should get them only if your doctor prescribes them to you. Most commonly, these medicines are used after a myocardial infarction, stroke, and so on.
– Atorvastatin by Ranbaxy