How Do High Cholesterol Levels Affect the Heart?
Cholesterol is not that bad for our body – it has several important functions and is needed in moderate amounts. This compound is required to make new cells in the body, protect neurons, and also produce hormones. But when the amount of cholesterol increases too much, it becomes a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. A high level of cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke. If the person has other risk factors along with high cholesterol levels, the chances of developing heart diseases increases.
As the levels of cholesterol in the blood increase, it accumulates in the arterial walls forming plaques. Build up of cholesterol in the arteries leads to atherosclerosis, one of the major heart diseases. This reduces the lumen of the artery affecting the flow of blood to the muscles of the heart. Blood flow to the heart slows down reducing the amount of oxygen supplied to the heart muscles, leading to chest pain. Heart attack may result if blood flow to the heart is completely cut off. Of the two types of cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the major contributor to the build up in the arterial walls. Increased levels of triglycerides may also result in plaque formation in the arteries.
High levels of cholesterol in the blood do not have any symptoms, which is why it remains undiagnosed in many cases. Cholesterol levels are affected by a number of factors including:
- Body weight – Obesity increases cholesterol levels and reducing body weight will help in controlling the total cholesterol levels.
- Diet – This is one of the most common causes of high cholesterol levels. The main culprits in the diet are saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol in food.
- Exercise – Engaging in regular physical activity is ideal to regulate the level of cholesterol in blood.
- Age – Levels of cholesterol increases with age.
- Medical conditions – Conditions like liver disease, thyroid problems, and kidney disease may all result in high cholesterol levels.
- Certain medications – Certain drugs like steroids and progestins may increase cholesterol levels.
High cholesterol levels can be treated by medications like statins, niacin, bile-acid resins, fibric acid derivatives, and cholesterol absorption inhibitors. Combination drugs are often recommended for obtaining better results. But one should discuss with the doctor before taking any of the herbals, vitamins, or other products as they may affect the action of other cholesterol-lowering drugs.