When was the last time you heard of someone praising an unhealthy diet and being inactive?
If the answer is ‘never’, it is with good reason. One of the major risks of following an unhealthy lifestyle is the equally high increase in cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol is a term that has become a part of our vocabulary in the last 20 years or so. The increased consumption of processed food and the decrease in physical activity is the biggest reason for this. According to an article published in the NCBI, high cholesterol is seen in 25-30% of urban subjects and 15-20% of rural subjects. The most common causes of high cholesterol or dyslipidemia exhibit high levels of LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides and low levels of HDL cholesterol.
If the doctor has told you or a loved one has high cholesterol, the following are some things that you need to keep in mind.
What Exactly Does It Mean When Your Doctor Says You Have High Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is found within the body to build healthy cells. But when the level of cholesterol increases, it will also increase the potential for heart disease. The fatty deposits made by cholesterol can block your vessels, clump together to form clots which can eventually lead to heart attacks, strokes and a multitude of other conditions.
Cholesterol usually moves through your body by attaching itself with proteins in the form of lipoproteins. The levels of lipoprotein are what is signified on your blood tests. Low-Density Lipoproteins or LDL are considered as the bad cholesterol whose increased presence can cause the above-mentioned problems. High-Density Lipoproteins or HDL is the good kind of cholesterol which carries excessive cholesterol in the body and takes it back to the liver. When testing for lipoproteins, triglyceride levels in the body are also measured. They are a type of fat present in the body and high levels of it can also be cause for concern.
While we may all love to blame our tendency for high cholesterol on our genetic makeup, it also contributes partly. Your favourite samosa, the extra hours spent watching a movie instead of getting a work out in, are all factors that contribute to high cholesterol.
What Are The Different Approaches To Lower Cholesterol?
We know blaming your favourite indulgence was an underhand move from our side, but it couldn’t be closer to the truth. According to trusted sources like Mayo Clinic, a poor diet, obesity, lack of exercise, and vices like smoking are all the major cause for high cholesterol. Your age and other pre-existing conditions like diabetes can also increase your risk for high cholesterol. The first step that any doctor would recommend would be to get these matters in order.
Eating a low sodium diet with whole ingredients and fresh produce, limiting the number of unhealthy fats, consuming more healthy fats, maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and better managing stress are all no brainer moves to achieve this. But if your lipid levels are far too high to be controlled naturally, doctors will put you on medications that can help.
Your doctor’s choice of medicines will depend on factors such as your age, health condition, possible drug interactions and the above-mentioned risk factors. Based on these, you could be recommended one, or a combination of, the following medicines.
Statins – These are chemicals that your liver naturally needs to make cholesterol. Taking statins can help your liver in reducing the amount of cholesterol in your body as well as to reabsorb the built-up cholesterol deposit in your artery.
Bile-acid-binding resins – This chemical can help the body use excess cholesterol to make more bile acids which help in digestion and will thus decrease the level of cholesterol in the blood.
Cholesterol absorption inhibitors – These medicines help reduce blood cholesterol by limiting the absorption of dietary cholesterol in the body. Usually, the small intestine will absorb them and release them into your blood, hiking up the cholesterol levels.
PCSK9 Inhibitors – These medicines are newer to people and work by increasing the absorption rate of LDL cholesterol by the liver. This can in turn reduce the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream.
In cases of high triglycerides, a patient may also be prescribed fibrates or niacin which reduce the production of very-low-density lipoprotein and increase the rate at which triglyceride is removed from the body. The latter is not used as commonly as they pose threat to the liver and provides the same result as statins. Supplements such Omega-3 fatty acids can also aid in lowering triglyceride levels.
While high cholesterol is a problem that can severely affect your body, it is largely preventable and can be better controlled by following a more balanced lifestyle. A combination of doctor-recommended lifestyle changes and medications can go a long way in addressing it.
Even if saying goodbye to your fatty indulgences may seem hard, living a fuller and healthier life is a payout worthy of the effort.
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