While nearly everyone has heard of cholesterol, it is often misunderstood. Often it is only talked about in terms of the dangers of having too much of it, a condition known as hypercholesterolemia. Here are some facts that may surprise you about t
A condition which is characterized by very high levels of cholesterol in the blood can be called hypercholesterolemia. Speaking about cholesterol, it is a waxy, fat-like substance which tends to get produced in the body, and is obtained from food items which may come from animals (particularly egg yolks, meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products). Did you know? The body needs this substance to build cell membranes, to make certain hormones, and produce compounds which help in fat digestion. It is no brainer that too much cholesterol, however, raises one’s risk of developing heart disease.
Those who have hypercholesterolemia, are at a higher risk of developing a form of heart disease known as coronary artery disease. You will be shocked to know that this condition occurs when excess cholesterol in the bloodstream tends to get deposited in the walls of blood vessels. The abnormal buildup of cholesterol forms clumps (plaque) which narrow and harden artery walls. Furthermore, as the clumps get bigger, they may clog the arteries and restrict the flow of blood to one’s heart. The buildup of plaque in coronary arteries leads to a form of chest pain which is known as angina and may put one at the risk of a heart attack.
Most of the people suffering from high cholesterol may not exhibit any symptoms until cholesterol-related atherosclerosis causes significant narrowing of the arteries leading to their hearts or brains. Thus, the result can be heart-related chest pain (angina) or other symptoms of coronary artery disease, as well as symptoms of decreased blood supply to the brain (transient ischemic attacks or stroke).
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A combination of genetic and environmental risk factors may lead to high cholesterol levels. Lifestyle choices including:
- tobacco smoking
may tend to influence the amount of cholesterol in the blood. Furthermore, factors that impact cholesterol levels include a person's gender, age, and health problems like diabetes and obesity. Are you aware? A condition known as familial hypercholesterolemia, which results from mutations in the LDLR gene, is the most common cause of inherited high cholesterol.
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Moreover, the LDLR gene provides instructions for making a protein called a low-density lipoprotein receptor. This type of receptor binds to particles called low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), are the primary carriers of cholesterol in the blood. By removing low-density lipoproteins from the bloodstream, these receptors tend to play a vital role in regulating cholesterol levels. Some LDLR mutations lower the number of low-density lipoprotein receptors produced within cells. Thus, people with mutations in the LDLR gene have very high levels of blood cholesterol. As the excess cholesterol circulates through the bloodstream, it is deposited abnormally in tissues like the skin, tendons, and arteries which are responsible for supplying blood to the heart.
The primary treatment for getting rid of high cholesterol can be lifestyle changes. This means that one will need to follow a well-balanced diet and stay physically active by exercising regularly.
- You must avoid processed foods, especially those that contain saturated fats. Try to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain bread and cereals, and low-fat dairy products. Although, many people opt for a Mediterranean diet which focuses on whole foods and includes plenty of fruits and vegetables).
- Not only this, you must see to it that you should cut down on alcohol.
(Inputs by Dr. Mangesh Kohale, Cardio Thoriac Surgeon at Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai Central)
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