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Complications of High Cholesterol: Symptoms and Risks

Complications of High Cholesterol: Symptoms and Risks

High cholesterol is a major concern of most adults ages 45 and above. Having high cholesterol means a person can be at risk for complications. Complications of high cholesterol can range from mild to severe, depending on the gravity of the condition.

Before diving into how high cholesterol is acquired, let us first discuss the importance of cholesterol in the body.

What is Cholesterol?

When you hear the word cholesterol, you assume that it connotes something unhealthy. In truth, however, cholesterol is responsible for building healthy cell tissues and certain hormones, making it essential to the body.

Cholesterol may come from your liver or from the food you eat, such as eggs, meats, and dairy.

Types of Cholesterol

Cholesterol is attached to the protein that is carried in the blood. The combination of cholesterol and protein is called a lipoprotein. There are two types of cholesterol based on their lipoproteins.

  1. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol. LDL delivers cholesterol particles into the body. However, LDL tends to build up in the walls of the arteries slowing down blood circulation.
  2. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) good cholesterol. HDL carries excess cholesterol back to the liver.

Factors like an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and obesity can increase the level of LDL in the body. As LDL continues to multiply, there is a higher risk of acquiring high cholesterol and a decrease in HDL.

When LDL grows in number, it will start to form a “plaque” on the walls of the arteries, restricting blood flow. This occurrence might put you at risk of severe complications of high cholesterol, such as stroke and heart disease.

High Cholesterol

Fatty deposits can build up in your blood vessels when you have high cholesterol. When these deposits pile up, it slows down the blood flow in the arteries.

High cholesterol is most often caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices such as overeating, poor diet, and inactivity. Changing your bad habits can make your condition reversible and treatable.

You may also acquire high cholesterol from genetics. If your family has a history of stroke, heart attack, and other vascular diseases, you may be more prone to having high cholesterol. Fortunately, even with a family history, there are numerous ways to manage your condition.

You may choose to make better lifestyle choices and avoid habits that increase your risk of acquiring high cholesterol. This includes not smoking, avoiding fatty, unhealthy fast-food or processed meats, exercising regularly, and reducing stress. Regardless of condition, a healthier lifestyle can greatly benefit your health. Healthy living can cure or alleviate certain symptoms and prevent the development or worsening of certain health problems. In addition, maintaining a healthy lifestyle will lessen your chances of dealing with the complications of high cholesterol.

Symptoms

You may have high cholesterol or be susceptible to it without having any idea. High cholesterol has no obvious symptoms. You can only confirm that you suffer from the condition once diagnosed by a doctor through a series of blood tests.

If your family has a history of high cholesterol, you should get checked for early awareness.

Risk Factors

The following are risk factors that can increase your vulnerability to high cholesterol.

  • Unhealthy diet. Consuming food that contains saturated and trans fat can trigger high cholesterol. Bad cholesterol found in food such as red meats, high-fat dairy products, fried food, and baked goods would make your cholesterol level skyrocket.
  • Age. As you get older, your body grows weaker. As you age, your liver will start to have difficulty in getting rid of LDL. This reason puts you at a higher risk of having high cholesterol.
  • Obesity. You are more vulnerable to high cholesterol when your BMI is 30 kg/m² or higher. Obesity raises your blood pressure and cholesterol and lowers your HDL level. Therefore, you are at a higher risk of developing complications of high cholesterol.
  • Smoking. Smoking cigarettes can damage the walls of the blood vessels.
  • Inactivity. Being physically active will help improve your HDL, as well as normalize your LDL when you lose weight.
  • Diabetes. People with diabetes are prone to high levels of cholesterol because diabetes tends to decrease the number of HDL in the blood. The complications of high cholesterol are most likely to be acquired by people with diabetes.

Complications

When a high cholesterol level is not prevented or treated immediately, complications may arise and become life-threatening. These complications include:

  • Heart attack. When fatty deposits form a plaque, it will eventually build-up and narrow down blood vessels. Plaque build-up blocks the blood vessels, restricting the flow of blood to the arteries. A heart attack can happen when the plaque ruptures, forming a blood clot in the arteries.
  • Stroke. A stroke happens when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood in the brain.
  • Carotid Artery Disease. Plaque builds up inside the carotid artery, reducing blood flow. Carotid artery disease often leads to stroke.
  • Peripheral Artery Disease. Blockage in the arteries caused by the build-up of plaque obstructs the circulation of blood to the other organs of the body.

If you suffer from severe chest pains due to high cholesterol levels, seek professional help right away. Delaying treatment may lead to more severe complications. Stroke and heart attacks are life-threatening so it is best to avoid developing them or seek treatment immediately.

Key takeaways

Your cholesterol level can be easily managed if you choose to live a healthy lifestyle. If you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, make sure to follow the instructions given to you by your physician. Following their medical advice will help prevent your condition from getting worse.

Fortunately, you can help yourself and prevent high cholesterol. Simply adopting healthier habits can steer you away from risk. By eating the right food, getting enough exercise, and seeking medical attention when needed can do wonders for your health. Remember, if high cholesterol runs in your family, you should be extra careful.

Keeping your cholesterol at its normal rate will reduce the chances of complications. Take care of your heart health!

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Sources

High Cholesterol https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/symptoms-causes/syc-20350800 Accessed 5, 2020

High Cholesterol https://familydoctor.org/condition/cholesterol/ Accessed 5 June 2020

High Cholesterol: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/risk-factors/high-cholesterol Accessed 5 June 2020

Control Your Cholesterol https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/about-cholesterol Accessed 5 June 2020

Cholesterol https://medlineplus.gov/cholesterol.html Accessed 5 June 2020

LDL and HDL Cholesterol: “Bad” and “Good” Cholesterol https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/ldl_hdl.htmAccessed 5 June 2020

Body Mass Index (BMI) in Adults https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/losing-weight/bmi-in-adults Accessed 5 June 2020

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Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao on Jun 05, 2020
Medically reviewed by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
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