Cholesterol is a type of fat in the blood that is essential for normal functioning of the cells, nerves, and hormones, but if it exceeds the normal limits it becomes harmful. Increased level of cholesterol in the body is known as hyperlipidemia.
Following are the different types of cholesterol in our body:
- LDL (low-density lipoprotein): It is the bad kind of cholesterol that carries and deposits the fat along the walls of arteries causing them to become hard and narrower.
- HDL (high-density lipoprotein): It is the good kind of cholesterol that carries the extra fat to the liver without depositing them along the walls of the arteries. It helps lower the risk of heart attacks.
- Triglycerides: It stores and transports fat in the blood. Excess calories (especially sugar and alcohol) are stored this way.
There are several causes that contribute to increased levels of cholesterol in our body. Some of the following include:
- Family tendency (you are at a higher risk if your siblings or parents have it)
- Weight (being overweight with very little physical activity can predispose people to high cholesterol)
- Unhealthy diet (having foods that have high cholesterol, trans fat and saturated fat level)
- Age (increasing age increases the risk)
- Unhealthy diet (eating foods such as full-fat dairy products, meat and processed food)
- Sedentary lifestyle (lack of physical exercise)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland)
- Polycystic ovarian disease
Hyperlipidemia usually presents with no signs and symptoms but puts you at a greater risk of developing other medical illnesses:
- High blood pressure (fat starts to build up along the walls of the arteries which causes them to become narrower that might shoot up the blood pressure)
- Heart attack (fat build-up may form a blood clot that might travel to the heart and cause a heart attack)
- Xanthelasma (in rare cases high cholesterol may start getting deposited around eyes)
Diagnosis is done by a blood test called a lipoprotein panel that suggests the levels of LDL, HDL and triglycerides in the body. This test is usually done after a period of overnight fasting of 10 to 12 hours without any food, drink or pills.
- Diet modification (one should choose high fiber foods e.g. oatmeal, apples, bananas and foods that are low in fat)
- Lifestyle modification is required (regular exercise)
- Limit alcohol
- Medications like cholesterol-lowering drugs e.g. statins, fibrates, niacin, resins.
When to consult a doctor?
A medical professional should be consulted right away if one feels a sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, numbness, slurred speech and difficulty in walking.