HIGH BLOOD CHOLESTEROL
High Cholesterol can develop in a wide spectrum of persons of any age, sex, race or ethnic background. You can only come to know you have high blood cholesterol by undergoing a blood test. There are no warning symptoms. However, since having high cholesterol is a major risk factor for developing coronary heart disease you should do something about it and thereby reduce your risk.
The desirable level of blood cholesterol is less than 200 mg%. Any level above 240 mg% is classified as high blood cholesterol and poses proportionate risks. For instance, a Cholesterol level of 240 mg/dl doubles your risk and a level of 300 mg/dl increases your risk almost six times.
Conversely, lowering the levels of cholesterol can substantially reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Studies have shown that reducing your cholesterol levels by 1 percent can reduce your chances of having a heart attack by 2 percent. This means that if you reduce your cholesterol level by 10 percent your chances of having a heart attack are reduced by 20 percent.
High blood cholesterol is caused by two factors:
1. Your genetic makeup
2. The saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet
Cholesterol deposits build up in the inner walls of the arteries supplying blood to the heart causing them to become narrower (the process is known as atherosclerosis). This reduces the amount of blood flowing to the heart and consequently reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the heart muscle. This can lead to angina (chest pain), myocardial infarction (a heart attack) or even death in extreme cases.
There are two kinds of Cholesterol found in the body - HDL Cholesterol and LDL Cholesterol. The difference between the two lies in the packages (called lipoproteins) in which they travel in the body.
HDL Cholesterol travels in high density lipoproteins (HDLs) which carry cholesterol back to the liver for processing or removal from the body. Since this prevents the build up of cholesterol in the arterial walls (atherosclerosis) and thereby reduces the risk of coronary heart disease it is known as “Good” Cholesterol.
LDL Cholesterol, on the other hand, travels in low density lipoproteins to all the parts of the body where it is used. Excess of this cholesterol, since it is not removed, can lead to thickening of the arterial walls and consequent heart disease. Thus, LDL cholesterol is also known as “Bad” Cholesterol.
The decision of whether or not to treat high blood cholesterol depends on
1. The level of the blood cholesterol reading
2. On whether the person has heart disease or two or more other “risk factors” of heart disease.
If a person does not have heart disease or any other risk factors diet treatment is begun at a LDL cholesterol level of 160 mg% and drug treatment is begun with and LDL level of 190 mg%. If, however the person has heart disease or other risk factors then dietary treatment is begun at an LDL level of 130 mg% and drug treatment is begun at an LDL level of 160 mg%.
Steps to lower High Blood Cholesterol
ATTAINING YOUR IDEAL BODY WEIGHT WOULD HELP A LOT. YOUR BODY MASS INDEX SHOULD BE LESS THAN 25.
A change of diet would be the first step in reducing blood cholesterol. Following a diet low in saturated fat and low in cholesterol can lead to remarkable results. However, this diet has to be continued for the rest of your life. No need to despair. You’ll be surprised at the range of food-stuffs that you can eat. So much so, in a short time, you won’t feel as if you are on a diet at all.
In some cases, a change in diet alone does not reduce the LDL Cholesterol. Medication has then to be included along with your diet.
Your aim should be to have a total cholesterol level below 200 mg/dl and an LDL Cholesterol level below 130 mg/dl.