Not all cholesterol is bad. Cholesterol is a fatty, wax-like substance which is essential for building healthy cells and some important hormones.
Your blood stream may contain two types of cholesterol: HDL (good cholesterol), and LDL (bad cholesterol). Generally, high cholesterol refers to the LDL or bad cholesterol.
If you have high cholesterol, it may build up and form fatty deposits in the inner wall of your blood vessels. This build-up, also known as plaque, may cause your arteries to thicken and harden, restricting blood flow and depriving your heart and brain of much needed oxygen that your blood also carries.
Constant high levels of cholesterol increases your risk of cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke.
Signs and Symptoms
There are no signs and symptoms of high cholesterol. Most people are unaware that their cholesterol levels are too high, while others only learn of it after they suffer from a stroke or heart attack. Often, high cholesterol is detected during regular physical examinations when a blood test is performed or when one seeks consultation for other diseases and a high cholesterol level is incidentally discovered. The only way for you to check and determine your actual cholesterol level is through a blood test.
Causes of high cholesterol
High cholesterol is usually a result of factors that are within your control such as lack of exercise, an unhealthy diet and obesity or excess weight. Other factors such as your genes, smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes, may increase your chances of having high cholesterol.
While your genes or family history may predispose you to having a high cholesterol level, adjustments to your diet and lifestyle may prevent the accumulation or reduce the level of bad cholesterol in your blood stream.
Eat a nutritious diet
Avoid red meat and full-fat dairy products and increase your fibre intake by eating more fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. Get your protein from lean white meat or from fish and soy foods. Stay away from junk food, deep fried and processed foods that usually contain high amounts of saturated fat and trans fat. Make it a habit to check food labels before buying anything in the grocery or supermarket. These items are required to display their trans fat and saturated fat content so that consumers like you may make informed decisions about the food they eat.
Maintain a healthy weight
Since obesity increases your chances of having high cholesterol, losing excess weight if you are overweight or maintaining your current weight if you are within the range of your ideal weight through a combination of a low-fat diet and exercise may result in lower cholesterol levels.
Be physically active
Regular exercise helps lower your cholesterol level. Try brisk walking, swimming, biking, taking up sports or working out in a gym at least 30 minutes a day.
Quit your vices
Stop smoking and avoid drinking alcohol. Smoking damages the walls of your arteries and lowers the level of good cholesterol while excessive alcohol intake may cause other health conditions that are risk factors for high cholesterol such as diabetes.Originally published on Jul 02, 2013