What You Need to Know About High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a word that is often associated with disease and death, but it isn’t always bad. One type of cholesterol is actually good for you and helps to keep you healthy. The other type only usually becomes problematic if levels remain high. Keep reading to find out more about the different types of cholesterol, what causes high cholesterol, and how you can reduce it.
What Is Cholesterol, and Why Do You Need it?
Cholesterol is a type of fat made by the liver. This substance is needed to make hormones, Vitamin-D and bile. It is also needed for cells to function optimally. While you need cholesterol for your body to work properly, too much of it can damage arteries, causing them to narrow and harden.
HDL and LDL Cholesterol
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is commonly referred to as “good cholesterol” because it transports cholesterol away from the cells to the liver. There, it is either broken down or exits the body as a waste product.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) transports cholesterol to cells that require it, but when cells get too much of it, it can build up on the artery walls. This type of cholesterol is called ”bad cholesterol.”
What Causes High Cholesterol?
The liver makes cholesterol from saturated fat, which is found in foods such as cheese, cream, butter and fatty meat. Eating foods that contain saturated fats increases the amount of LDL cholesterol in your blood.
Smoking can also cause high cholesterol because cigarettes contain a chemical called acrolein, which stops HDL from carrying cholesterol from fatty deposits to the liver so it can be broken down. Instead, the deposits attach to the arterial wall, leading to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
Additionally, diabetes and high blood pressure can cause elevated LDL levels. Diabetes is a disease that often reduces good cholesterol levels and raises bad ones. This condition is known as diabetic dyslipidemia because the lipids are not functioning as they should, and it increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke.
When Should Your Cholesterol Levels Be Tested?
Your physician may recommend that your blood cholesterol levels be tested if you:
Have a family history of cardiovascular disease
Have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, peripheral arterial disease or stroke
Have high blood pressure, diabetes or another health condition that causes high cholesterol levels
Have a close relative who has a condition linked to high cholesterol
How Can You Lower Your Cholesterol Levels?
The first step to lowering your cholesterol levels is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. This means reducing the amount of saturated and trans fats that you consume. You can swap cakes and pastries for fruit, and exchange fatty meats for fish and chicken. Some people find it hard to change their diet. If this is the case for you, you can start by reducing the amount of unhealthy fats you’re consuming. Then, make one small change a week until you’ve reached your goal.
Lifestyle is another consideration. If you smoke, take active measures to stop, as this should help you achieve healthier cholesterol levels. If you don’t think you can completely quit at once, try to smoke fewer cigarettes until you can give them up for good.
Exercise is another great way to reduce cholesterol — people who maintain a healthy weight tend to have more of the good cholesterol and less of the bad.
Are you concerned about your cholesterol levels? Please contact us by calling (281) 586-3888 or filling out an appointment request to schedule an appointment with a doctor in Houston today.