These are the most frequently asked questions about high cholesterol.
Question: What is cholesterol?
Answer: Cholesterol is an essential fatty substance known as a lipid and is manufactured in the liver of all animals and humans. It is essential in the production of hormones and bile, which is necessary for digestion. Generally the body creates all the cholesterol it needs. Cholesterol is an important element in the manufacturing of many of the body’s natural steroid hormones and vitamin D. It is an essential component of the membrane forming the walls of individual cells and it insulates nerve fibres
Question: What are lipoproteins?
Answer: Cholesterol is carried through the blood in tiny packages that are mixed with large molecules known as lipoproteins, which are combinations of fats and proteins. These molecules assist fats such as cholesterol in dissolving in the blood stream.
Question: What is the difference between high-density and low-density lipoproteins?
Answer: The two major types of lipoproteins are high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which are lipoproteins with a higher level of protein than fat, and low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which are lipoproteins with more fat than protein. LDL cholesterol is known as “bad” cholesterol because it deposits fat into the walls of arteries, which forms oily collections known as plaques. These form clots which could hamper or stop blood supply, leading to organ malfunction. When this happens in the heart’s arteries, angina or a heart attack may result. Plaque buildup in arteries leading to the brain can cause stroke while plaque buildup in arteries in the legs may lead to gangrene.
Question: How is cholesterol tested?
Answer: A blood test is required to determine the levels of cholesterol in blood. Normal cholesterol levels are in the range of 140 to 200 mg of cholesterol per deciliter of blood.
Question: Why are triglyceride levels tested?
Answer: Triglyceride levels may also be tested as triglycerides are the fats used for energy originating from fatty foods. Unused triglycerides are stored in the fatty tissues of your body and excess triglycerides in the blood also increases the risk of heart disease.
Question: What are the dangers of high cholesterol?
Answer: High levels of cholesterol are dangerous as it leads to a condition known as hypercholesterolaemia. As there are no symptoms to the condition it may go undetected if regular screenings are not done. It may result in organ damage.
Question: Which preventative measures can be taken in treating high cholesterol?
Answer: Prevention is possible through early diagnosis and aggressive treatment aimed at lowering cholesterol levels. The most effective way to lower cholesterol levels is to radically reduce the amount of animal fat in your diet.
Question: Which factors influence blood cholesterol levels?
Answer: With age the levels of cholesterol naturally increases and is higher in men and post-menopausal women. Factors affecting blood cholesterol levels include heredity, diet, exercise, high alcohol intake, cigarette smoking, under active thyroid gland, diabetes and body weight.
Question: What does treatment for high cholesterol entail?
Answer: Treatment involves following a low-fat, high-fiber diet, increasing exercise, smoking cessation, losing weight, taking supplements and limiting alcohol intake. Medicinal intervention is needed if the lifestyle changes do not improve the cholesterol levels tested.
Question: What are the risks of high cholesterol?
Answer: LDL cholesterol reduction is only part of the battle against atherosclerosis (the hardening of arteries due to plaque buildup) and individuals who have normal or mildly elevated LDL cholesterol levels are still at risk of developing atherosclerosis and heart attacks.