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Cholesterol – diagnosis and treatment

Cholesterol is a steroid that plays an important part in metabolism. It is needed to make cell membranes. It is found in every cell of your body and is used to build up a healthy cell and some essential hormones.

A high level will cause fatty deposits to settle in the vessels. These fatty deposits will block the way in the arteries causing difficulty in flow of blood. As a result the heart will receive minimal amount of oxygen rich blood, which might end up increasing the risks of heart attack and a decrease in blood flow to the brain may cause a stroke.

High cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) can be easily prevented and cured. Healthy diet, regular exercises and occasionally medicines can help you prevent this syndrome. High cholesterol does not have any symptoms. The only way to detect is through blood test.

Have your test done when you are 20 years of age and then get it retested after a period of five years. If the test results aren’t satisfactory then your doctor will recommend you for more frequent tests. Another reason why the doctor will advise you for more frequent tests is that, if there is a family history or any other symptoms like smoking or diabetes.

cholesterol

Types

It along with the proteins is carried through the blood. This combination of it and proteins is called lipoprotein. There are three different types depending upon what type the lipoprotein is carrying.

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL usually termed as “good,” the HDL type picks up the excess cholesterol and takes it back to your liver.
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol transports its particles throughout your body while transporting the LDL cholesterol builds up in the walls of your arteries and makes the walls hard and narrow.
  • Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL). It is also a type of lipoprotein which has the most triglycerides. It is a type of fat which is attached to the proteins in the blood. The VLDL makes the LDL particles larger which in turn narrows the blood vessels. If you are taking medication to lower the value and have a high VLDL level then you may have to take additional medication to lower it as VLDL has high content of triglycerides.

There are several factors which are within your control like inactivity, obesity and an unhealthy diet which contributes to high LDL and low HDL. There are other factors too which are beyond your control like genetic makeup which may keep cells from removing LDL from your blood efficiently or cause your liver to produce too much cholesterol.

Risk factors

There are few other reasons of getting high cholesterol which may lead to heart disease. The risk factors could be

  • Poor diet – Eating foods which are high in value, such as red meat, full fat dairy products. Eating saturated and Trans fats which are found in animal products and commercially baked cookies and crackers.
  • Lack of exercise – Regular exercises will boost up your body’s HDL or good cholesterol and lowers the LDL or bad one. If ignored and not getting enough exercise will put you again at the risk of high cholesterol.
  • Smoking – As we all know Cigarette smoking is hazardous to health and it damages the walls of the blood vessels which makes them likely to accumulate fatty deposits. Smoking may also lower the level of HDL.
  • Obesity – Having a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30 or greater than that makes you more vulnerable to high cholesterol.
  • High blood Pressure – An increased pressure of blood on your arteries will damage the artery walls. Due which the fatty deposits accumulates more rapidly.
  • Diabetes – High level of blood sugar will cause an increase in the LDL value and a decrease in the HDL . It also damages the lining of the arteries.
  • Family history – If a parent or sibling in the family had heart disease before 55 years of age then the high cholesterol levels will place you at a higher risk of developing heart disease when compared with an average person.

Complications

Atherosclerosis can be caused due to high cholesterol. It’s a dangerous disease which causes accumulation of cholesterol and other deposits on the walls of the arteries. These fatty deposits usually termed as, plaques, will reduce the flow of blood in the arteries. If the artery that supplies blood to your heart (coronary arteries) is affected then you will have a chest pain and severe problems like coronary artery disease.

If plaques tear or get ruptured then there is a clot formed at the site of the rupture which might end up with blocking the flow or breaking free and plugging an artery downstream. If blood flow stops to a part of the heart then heart attack occurs and if the flow stops reaching the brain then a stroke.

Preparations before the appointment

You’ll need to provide a blood sample to check the cholesterol level. It requires you to draw the blood in fasting state. It is usually recommended not to eat or drink 9 to 12 hours before the test. Because of this your doctor might suggest you to draw it early in the morning.

At your appointment, the doctor may ask you about the family history, as the major reason for high cholesterol value are hereditary. Have this entire information ready along with the questions which you might have on your mind.

Tests and Diagnosis

A test to check cholesterol levels, called as lipid panel or lipid profile, reports:

  • Total
  • LDL
  • HDL
  • Triglycerides – a type of fat in the blood

To get more accurate results do not eat or drink (other than water) anything 9 to 12 hours before the test.

Cholesterol levels are measured in terms of milligrams mg per deciliter (dL) of blood sample in United States and in other countries like Canada and Europe cholesterol in millimoles (mmol) per liter (L) of blood. Get you lipid panel (report) and match it with the values provided in the table and check if it falls within the optimal levels.

Because the LDL value is linked with the heart disease the chart is not as simple as it looks. Your target LDL value may differ depending upon the underlying risks of heart diseases. Most people should aim for an LDL level below 130 mg/dL (3.4 mmol/L). If some who have other risk factors for heart disease, then their target LDL may be below 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L). If you’re at very high risk of heart disease, you may need to aim for an LDL level below 70 mg/dL (Below 1.8 mmol/L).

So there are few other factors which might also place you in the very high risk group. Factors such as smoking, High blood pressure, Low HDL, Family history of early heart disease and an age older than 45 if you’re a man, or older than 55 if you’re a woman.

Children at the age of 2 can also have high cholesterol. But not all children only those who have a family history high cholesterol or premature coronary artery disease need to tested. The child has other risk factors too such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. The doctors will recommend you to put the child under the lipid test.

Treatment and Drugs

The most important step is to change the lifestyle by changing the eating habits and regular exercises. If this is not enough to get down the LDL value then the doctor might suggest little medication for you.

The specific choice of medication includes individual risk factors, your age, your health and other side effects. Few of the prescribed drugs are, Statins, Bile-acid-binding resins, Zetia can be used in combination with any of the statin drugs. If you also have high triglycerides, then the doctor might prescribe you the Fibrates, Niacin, a combination of niacin and statin. Most of these medications are well tolerated, but the results vary from person to person. The common side effects are muscle pains, stomach pain, constipation, nausea and diarrhea.

In children initial stages can be controlled by regular exercises and balanced diet.

Home Remedies

A change is lifestyle is essential to bring down the levels – If you are on diet then try to lose an excess of pounds and do regular exercises. Eat heart-healthy foods, choose healthier fats. Saturated fats are the source of high cholesterol value. Olive oil, peanut and canola oils are healthier options for Monounsaturated fat. Almonds and walnuts are come under healthier fats.

Eliminate the trans fats completely – Not only they increase the total LDL “bad” value but also decrease the HDL “good” value. Limit your cholesterol dietary value. Do not eat more than 300 mg of cholesterol a day. Select whole grains, eat fresh vegetables and fruits, and eat heart healthy fish.

Avoid alcohol – Limit your alcoholic drinks to one or no drinks a day. Exercise regularly and quit smoking. Quitting will help increase the level of HDL. The benefit of quitting doesn’t end there. Just 20 min after quitting, the blood pressure decreases. After 24 hours, the risk of a heart attack decreases and within one year, the risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker’s. Within 15 years, the risk of heart disease is similar to that of someone who’s never smoked.

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