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Cholesterol FAQs: Causes, Symptoms & Dangers

Posted in: General Health 05 Oct, 2015

Six in ten adults have high cholesterol. Isn't that shocking? It's probably time you had yours tested. Before you go, read this to get an idea of what you might be up against.

What Is Cholesterol?

It's a waxy substance made by the liver, but it's also found in some foods. It's needed to produce properly functioning cells, hormones, bile and vitamin D. Without cholesterol you would simply die. The problem is when we ingest too much and it gets stuck in our arteries causing heart disease.

HDL and LDL - Help!

You may have heard of good and bad cholesterol? There are two forms of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol around the body. LDL 'low density lipoprotein' is the Darth Vader bad cholesterol. HDL 'high density lipoproteins' is Luke Skywalker - they are the good guys. Hans Solo is in the sexual desire hormone section if you're looking for him.

What Are The Causes?

  • Overeating is one of the main causes of high cholesterol. Too much fat affects how it's carried around our bodies. Obesity also puts a strain on our arteries.

  • Lack of exercise may mean you put on weight and keep all that fat in your system. Exercise burns off fat and it also strengthens the arteries which carry cholesterol on its jolly way to the liver.

  • Smoking narrows your arteries and makes less room for cholesterol to pass through into the liver for disposal. It makes the fat stickier and reduces the available cleansing oxygen.

  • Some people inherit high cholesterol. They'd probably prefer money, but it isn't a death sentence if they follow doctors' advice. Genes affect how our bodies deal with fat, and because there are over 100 genes working to deal with fatty substances, just one of these misfiring can cause a cholesterol problem.

What Are The Symptoms?

There are few symptoms that directly point to high cholesterol. It requires solid doctor detective skills. One give-away are tiny lumps under the eyes which are small lumps of fat. If you have these, you ought to have your cholesterol levels checked soon and take a good look at your health as well.

What Are The Dangers?

When cholesterol and fat block your arteries you may suffer a heart attack or a stroke, both of which can kill or seriously disable you. You may suffer angina or pain when walking beforehand too.

How Is It Tested?

There are a couple of tests you doctor might perform. A blood sample that is sent off for tests and/or a finger prick test. It's all very simple.

What Should You Do If Yours Is High?

Improve your diet and start exercising. You may also be prescribed statins to help lower the cholesterol. Statins are excellent but you also need to cut out processed foods and fat. Eat whole foods - those that have not been tampered with such as fruit and vegetables, low fat meats and fish, plus some dairy. A balanced diet is what you are aiming for. Women should aim for no more than 20mgs of fat a day (4 teaspoons of butter is 10gms) Exercise will help reduce the levels of fat in your blood and strengthen your overworked arteries. If you smoke, quitting is a sure-fire route to reducing cholesterol and a whole host of other risks besides.

High cholesterol is known as the silent killer. I don't want to scare you, but if you are eating badly, being lazy or smoking - don't you think it's likely you are one of the 6 in 10 that have high cholesterol levels?

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