Our body requires a balance of all the important nutrients,vitamins and minerals. Overconsumption or deficiency of any one element can become a risk factor for your health. A certain amount of cholesterol is required for your body. Just like there is some amount of fat which is required for your brain as a myelin sheath for your nerves. Therefore, there is also a particular amount of cholesterol that is important for the body. However, when it goes beyond the required level, then it starts getting deposited in your blood stream. And in such cases, when you get your blood test done, it will get precipitated as hypercholesterolemia. The normal range of cholesterol is about less than 180 mg per deci-litre. Hypercholesterolemia is basically an increased level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) or non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) which as a result spikes the triglycerides too. While, some foods provide good cholesterol, still there are food items that should be consumed in moderation. And, other lifestyle choices also play a major role in this health condition. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dietician Ritika Samaddar, Regional Head - South Zone, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, about the symptoms, causes, treatment and dietary measures for hypercholesterolemia.
What causes Hypercholesterolemia?
When you are eating food, there are two ways for the body to produce cholesterol. One is the internal mechanism, by which the body makes cholesterol and the second is dietary cholesterol. However, it is not just about total cholesterol, but it is also about the different segments that are involved. As per Dt. Ritika, "There is something called VLDL and the LD that is the low density cholesterol, very low density cholesterol and HDL, which is high density cholesterol. So, these are the different components of the cholesterol which are present in our body. According to Dt. Ritika, the major causes of Hypercholesterolemia are:
Genes and hereditary is one of the first factor for hypercholesterolemia. This factor is also called familial hypercholesterolemia. In a lot of cases, it is observed that it is the internal mechanism or genetic cause because of which the cholesterol can go up. So, it is not just about restricting the cholesterol diet in your food.
Smoking is a major cause behind a lot of health conditions. And not just respiratory disease, almost every disease is indirectly or directly related to smoking cigarettes. Smoking produces harmful toxins like free radicals. Therefore, it can also be a threat as it raises the level of bad cholesterol in the body. People suffering from Hypercholesterolemia should surely avoid smoking.
3. Drinking alcohol
Alcohol can also become a cause behind hypercholesterolemia. It has a tendency of decreasing the LDL receptor levels in the liver. Drinking too much alcohol is not good for your overall health and can increase the levels of cholesterol in the body.
There can be dietary reasons for which the cholesterol can go up in the body. If someone has high cholesterol levels, a modification of diet needs to be done. And, an individual should not only restrict the high cholesterol food in the diet, but also the high saturated fats or unhealthy fats of the diet. Because, that also gets converted into cholesterol. So, unhealthy fats, high cholesterol foods, fried foods like red meats have to be restricted.
Also read: How to lower your cholesterol
Long term stress can disturb the body's mechanism and increase the cholesterol levels in your body. Stress, anxiety and depression are mostly seen in office going adults. It has been observed that stress has a negative impact on your body and can contribute towards many health problems. Your body has a tendency to bounce an opposite reaction by giving an indication through this feeling.
6. No exercise
Engaging in physical activities like exercise, walking, running, swimming and dancing are important for many bodily functions. Exercise can help in reducing the risk of hypercholesterolemia. In fact, people suffering from this condition should exercise regularly to balance the cholesterol levels in the body.
As per Dt. Ritika, there aren't much symptoms that can tell that you have hypercholesterolemia, because these are lipo protein which are moving in your blood vessels. Therefore, you won't be able to know until and unless it's actually causing a problem and it gets precipitated as cardiac arrest. In that situation, it is already too late. So, there are no specific symptoms for this condition. This is the reason why people who have such genetics, are obese or are leading a very stressful life, should undergo a health check up regularly, so that it can be identified on time.
How does hypercholesterolemia affect your body?
Complications associated with hypercholesterolemia are myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy, sudden cardiac death, stroke, erectile dysfunction and acute limb ischemia. Cholesterol is a basically a waxy substance found in your blood. Your liver makes most of the cholesterol in your body, otherwise it comes from the foods you eat. Here are the negative impacts of high cholesterol level in your body:
1. Cardiovascular diseases
Hypercholesterolemia can be a huge risk for your heart health. High cholesterol in the body can increase the chances of getting cardiovascular diseases. When you have excess LDL cholesterol in your body, it can build up in your arteries and clog them. This result in reducing their flexibility that can develop a heart disease.
2. Bad for digestive system
Cholesterol also helps in the production of bile juices. Bile is responsible for breaking down the food and substances in your body for proper absorption in the intestines. Therefore, high cholesterol can disturb that production and lead to gallstones, that can be very painful too.
Foods to eat and avoid for Hypercholesterolemia
As mentioned above, one can make Lifestyle and dietary changes to reduce the cholesterol levels in the body. Making these modifications can save you from many further health problems. However, the foods that can be eaten should also be consumed in moderation. Here are some foods that you should eat and avoid for Hypercholesterolemia:
High cholesterol foods:
- Dairy products (milk, cheese and yogurt)
- Fast foods (pizza, burger and french fries)
- Processed meats
Low cholesterol foods:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Dark chocolate
- Fatty fish
Ways to Lower High Cholesterol
One can try various ways to control the cholesterol levels in the body. Anybody having higher cholesterol than 180 mg per deci-litre will be considered as hypercholesterolemia. Hence, here are some ways to lower high cholesterol by Dt. Ritika:
- Avoid smoking and drinking
- Have more healthy fats and complex carbohydrates (brown rice, quinoa and oats)
- Stop taking unhealthy foods
- Take MUFA - Mono unsaturated fatty acids
- Don't take stress
As per Dietician Ritika, the moment you have high cholesterol, you are put on statins. There would be different ranges of medicines, but the basic generic name is statins. However, diet and exercise play a major role and are also very helpful in correcting hypercholesterolemia. There is no need of surgery in such health conditions. Cholesterol levels can be easily controlled with lifestyle modifications and medications.
So, these were the causes, symptoms and treatment and ways to control Hypercholesterolemia. Dietician Ritika Samaddar said, "When we consider a person having hypercholesterolemia, it is about the lipid profile and not just total cholesterol. Not just restricting yourself for the diet but also exercising well, eating, sleeping, less of stress, not smoking or taking too much alcohol. All these things will have an effect on the cholesterol levels."
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