High Cholesterol (Hypercholesterolemia): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

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High Cholesterol (Hypercholesterolemia): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

High cholesterol, also called as hypercholesterolemia, refers to the high amount of cholesterol in the blood.

Cholesterol is a lipid, fat-like substance which is important for the formation of cell membranes, certain hormones, and vitamin D. It is produced by the liver and is not water-soluble because of which the liver also produces lipoproteins. These proteins carry cholesterol and triglycerides through the bloodstream.

There are two major forms of lipoprotein; low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Hypercholesterolemia basically refers to the over-production of LDL. High cholesterol typically causes no symptoms; the reason why it is necessary to check cholesterol levels on a regular basis.

High cholesterol may deposit fat in the blood, which makes it difficult for the blood to flow through the arteries. This restricts the heart from receiving oxygen-rich blood which further increases the risk of a heart attack. This can further decrease the flow of blood to the brain and result in a stroke. Hypercholesterolemia is either inherited or is the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices. Thus it is both, preventable and treatable.

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How Does High Cholesterol Affect Your Body?

High levels of cholesterol increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Fat deposits that build up in the arteries cause increases in cholesterol, which gradually make arteries narrower and thus, restrict the flow of blood to important organs like the heart.

If the surface of one of the plaques (fat deposit) in the arteries breaks or bursts, it can cause a blood clot which completely blocks the blood supply to the heart, causing a heart attack. In some cases, it may also block the blood supply to the brain, and cause a stroke.

What Are The Causes of High Cholesterol?

Factors like inactivity, obesity, and an unhealthy diet, contribute to high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol. Genetics also influence cells from removing LDL cholesterol from the blood efficiently or cause the liver to produce cholesterol in excess.

What Are The Risk Factors of High Cholesterol?

Risk factors of high cholesterol include:

  • Poor diet – Eating saturated fat and trans fats can raise the cholesterol level.
  • Obesity – BMI of 30 or greater can put on to a risk of high cholesterol.
  • Lack of exercise – Exercise helps boost HDL cholesterol while increasing the size of the particles that make LDL cholesterol, which makes it less harmful.
  • Smoking – Smoking damage the walls of blood vessels, making them likely to accumulate fatty deposits.
  • Diabetes – High blood sugar contributes to higher LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol, and also damages the lining of arteries.

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What Are The Symptoms of High Cholesterol?

High cholesterol has no symptoms.

How is High Cholesterol Diagnosed?

High cholesterol level is diagnosed by blood test.

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How To Prevent And Control High Cholesterol?

  • Eating a low-salt diet including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can prevent high cholesterol.
  • Limiting the amount of animal fats can decrease the risk of high levels of cholesterol.
  • Maintaining a healthy and controlled weight lowers the risk of high cholesterol.
  • Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption can help to lower the risk.
  • Exercising regularly for a minimum of 30 minutes can prevent hypercholesterolemia.

Treatment of High Cholesterol – Allopathic Treatment

Medications used-

  • Statins – Statins help the body to reabsorb cholesterol from built-up deposits in the artery walls. This potentially reverses coronary artery disease. These include atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Altoprev), pitavastatin (Livalo), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor).
  • Bile-acid-binding resins – Cholestyramine (Prevalite), colesevelam (Welchol) and colestipol (Colestid) lower cholesterol indirectly, by binding to bile acids. This makes the liver use excess cholesterol for more bile acids, and thereby reduces the cholesterol levels.
  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors – Ezetimibe (Zetia) helps in reducing blood cholesterol by limiting the absorption of dietary cholesterol.
  • Injectable medications – Alirocumab (Praluent) and evolocumab (Repatha) may be used for people who have a genetic condition that causes high levels of LDL, or in people who have an intolerance to statins or other cholesterol medications.

Diet and exercise are the initial treatment for children above 2 years of age who have high cholesterol or are obese.

Children older than 10 years of age might be prescribed with cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins, if they have extremely high cholesterol levels.

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Treatment of High Cholesterol – Homeopathic Treatment

  • Allium Sativum – It is the natural medicine for high cholesterol levels and helps in eliminating the excess cholesterol from the body by raising the vitality of the person. It also treats high blood pressure due to cholesterol deposits in the arteries.
  • Aurum Metallicum – It is prescribed in those cases of high cholesterol where the arteries have hardened due to cholesterol deposits, and where high blood pressure is present.
  • Calcarea Carbonica – This is for reducing high cholesterol in obese or overweight patients. It is also of great help for patients who complain of tightness in the chest or a feeling of suffocation that intensifies while performing any activity (like climbing stairs).
  • Nux Vomica – This is for patients who crave for alcohol and fatty foods with high cholesterol levels.
  • Crataegus Oxyacantha – This medicine acts as a tonic for heart muscles that have weakened due to the reduced blood supply to the heart as a result of the deposits of cholesterol in the arteries.
  • Baryta Muriaticum – Baryta Muriaticum is beneficial when the cholesterol plaques have deposited in the arteries, leading to heart and brain affections.

High Cholesterol – Lifestyle Tips

  • Eat heart-healthy food
  • Avoid saturated and trans fat
  • Add whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to the diet
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation
  • Lose extra weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don’t smoke

What Are The Recommended Exercises For a Person With High Cholesterol?

The following exercises are recommended for a person with high cholesterol:

  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Aerobic dancing

High Cholesterol & Pregnancy- Things to Know

  • Cholesterol level increases during the second trimester, peaks during the third and typically returns to normal about four weeks after delivery.
  • Increased cholesterol during pregnancy is essential, but with high levels before conception, it could lead to hypertension and risks.
  • Hypercholesterolemia can lead to pregnancy-induced hypertension, which can threaten the life of both the mother and the child.
  • To control cholesterol levels during pregnancy, a well-balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, and fiber must be eaten on a regular basis, saturated fats must be avoided, and slight exercise must be performed under the doctor’s guidance.

Common Complications Related to High Cholesterol

High cholesterol can cause:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Angina and other coronary artery diseases
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes

FAQs

Q. What is the difference between good and bad cholesterol?

A. HDL cholesterol is known as good cholesterol. It takes the bad cholesterol out of the blood and keeps it from building up in the arteries. LDL cholesterol is known as bad cholesterol because it can build up on the walls of the arteries and can increase the chances of getting cardiovascular diseases.

Q. Can the risk of a heart disease reduce by lowering the cholesterol level?

A. The risk of a heart disease reduces when a person has low total cholesterol and low LDL.

Q. At what age should one begin having their cholesterol checked?

A. Total cholesterol should at least be measured every five years starting from the age of 20.


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