Have you ever been stopped of taking a bite of your favorite dark chocolate cake just because of cholesterol levels? This is the most common scenario most of us face frequently. Maintaining a healthy body for those having high cholesterol levels is very much important and certain foods that are high in cholesterol should be avoided & those foods that lower cholesterol levels are recommended. According to experts, a high level of cholesterol is a silent health risk that can result into a deadly killer, coronary heart disease. But one should not get surprised by the fact that cholesterol itself isn’t bad & is vital to human life. Cholesterol is one of the many substances created and used by our bodies to keep us healthy.
Cholesterol is a soft, fatty, waxy substance which is produced by the liver and is crucial for normal body functioning. Cholesterol exists in the outer layer of every cell in our body and has many functions. It moves through the bloodstream to be used by all parts of the body. Our body needs it in order to work properly & this is the reason, our body uses it to hold cells together. Our body also uses it to make hormones, bile acid, vitamin D, and substances that help us digest foods. Cholesterol comes from two places. Our body actually makes most of what it needs in the liver. The rest comes from the foods we eat.
Cholesterol is found in eggs, dairy products, meat, and poultry. Egg yolks and organ meats (liver, kidney, sweetbread, and brain) are high in cholesterol. Fish generally contains less cholesterol than other meats, but some shellfish are high in cholesterol. These foods can provide us with more than enough cholesterol. Foods of plant origin such as vegetables, fruits, grains, cereals, nuts, and seeds contain no cholesterol. In general, risk of developing heart disease goes up as our level of blood cholesterol increases. So, if too much cholesterol gets into the blood, it can cause problems. This is known as high cholesterol, hypercholesterolemia, or hyperlipidemia.
Types of Cholesterol
Cholesterol is carried in the blood by molecules called lipoproteins. A lipoprotein is any complex or compound containing both lipid (fat) and protein. The two main types are:
- LDL (low density lipoprotein) – It is often referred to as “bad cholesterol”. LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to cells. If too much is carried, too much for the cells to use, there can be a harmful buildup of LDL. This lipoprotein can increase the risk of arterial disease if levels rise too high. Most human blood contains approximately 70% LDL – this may vary, depending on the person.
- HDL (high density lipoprotein) – It is often referred to as “good cholesterol”. Experts say HDL prevents arterial disease. HDL does the opposite of LDL – HDL takes the cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver. In the liver it is either broken down or expelled from the body as waste.
Causes of High Cholesterol
There are many factors that can increase the chances of having heart problems or stroke if they have high cholesterol, including the following:
- an unhealthy diet: some foods already contain cholesterol (known as dietary cholesterol) but it is the amount of saturated fat in the diet which is more important
- smoking: a chemical found in cigarettes called acrolein stops HDL from transporting LDL to the liver, leading to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
- having diabetes or high blood pressure (hypertension)
- having a family history of stroke or heart disease
Dangers of high cholesterol levels
High cholesterol levels can cause severe disorders such:
- Atherosclerosis which is narrowing of the arteries.
- Higher coronary heart disease risk which causes an abnormality of the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart.
- Heart attack that occurs when the supply of blood and oxygen to an area of heart muscle is blocked, usually by a clot in a coronary artery. This causes your heart muscle to die.
- Angina that causes chest pain or discomfort that occurs when your heart muscle does not get enough blood.
- Other cardiovascular conditions such as diseases of the heart and blood vessels.
- Stroke and mini-stroke which occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or vein, interrupting the flow to an area of the brain. Can also occur when a blood vessel breaks. Brain cells begin to die.
Sometimes positive changes in diet, lifestyle and exercise are not enough to reduce the cholesterol levels. In such cases, doctors may consider the use of medication that lowers cholesterol. There are several types of drugs that can help reduce blood cholesterol levels. The most commonly prescribed are the statins includes Lipitor. Lipitor is a cholesterol-lowering medication that blocks the production of cholesterol in the body. It contains an active ingredient called Atorvastatin. Lipitor statins helps to reduce the levels of “bad” cholesterol & fats and raise “good” cholesterol in the blood thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease and helps prevent strokes and heart attacks. Lipitor works by blocking an enzyme that is used to make cholesterol in the liver. When that enzyme is blocked, less cholesterol is produced and the amount of cholesterol in the blood decreases. Atorvastatin lowers the level of total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol), and raises high density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol) levels. Reduction of cholesterol levels in the blood has been shown to reduce the risks associated with heart disease, such as heart attack. Lipitor is available in dosage strengths of 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg and 80 mg.
So having a healthy diet habit can help in reducing the risks of cholesterol. One should always remember that although cholesterol is necessary for life but it can also be very harmful and requires regular monitoring. So, monitor your cholesterol levels regularly and keep in mind that a small drop in your cholesterol level can reduce your risk of heart attack to a large extent.