People with cholesterol have greater chances of developing heart diseases.
High blood cholesterol does not cause symptoms hence many people live in unawareness of their cholesterol condition.
Cholesterol is use in making hormones, Vitamin D and substances which aid in food digestion.
There are two types of cholesterol; high density lipoprotein cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) and low density lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol). High levels of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol leads to a buildup of cholesterol in the wall of arteries which forms a plaque which eventually causes narrowing of the arteries and this is known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis of the coronary artery decreases blood flow to the heart and the amount of oxygen being carried leading to coronary artery diseases. Large plaques could cause a pain in the chest known as angina which is a sign of a coronary heart disease as the heart does not receive enough blood and oxygen. Some plaques might burst open and release the cholesterol into blood and this might cause the blood to clot which can obstruct the flow of blood leading to angina or heart attack or even stroke.
Lowering cholesterol is vital in preventing plaque formation and the conditions associated with it.
There are various factors influencing the levels of blood cholesterol. Some of these factors can be controlled and others cannot be controlled. Some of the factors that can be regulated would include:
1) Diet; as certain food have fats which could raise your cholesterol level. These fats would include saturated fats, Trans fats which are hydrogenated vegetable oils to harden it. Cholesterol is found in food from animal sources e.g. egg yolk, meat and cheese.
2) Being overweight or obese tends to increase your Low Density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and lowers your High Density Lipoprotein and hence your total cholesterol level.
3) Lack of regular exercise can lead to weight gain and rise in cholesterol levels. Regular exercise helps lose weight, lowers LDL cholesterol levels and increases HDL Cholesterol levels.
Those factors influencing cholesterol levels which cannot be controlled are factors which are hereditary, age and sex. Starting at puberty, men have lower levels of HDL than women. As women and men get older, their LDL cholesterol levels rise. Younger women have lower LDL cholesterol levels than men, but after age 55 they have higher levels than men.
Triglycerides, another form of fats in the body could lead to increased risk for heart diseases and the following factors increase the level of body triglycerides; overweight, smoking, physical inactivity, certain diseases and drugs, excessive alcohol consumption, very high carbohydrate diets and genetics.
Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes associated with Cholesterol
1) Limiting the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol consumed. Limit the consumption of fatty beef (red meat), pork, poultry with skin, butter, cheese, dairy products from milk and many baked and fried products. Palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil contain saturated fats but not cholesterol.
2) Eating enough to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. This would comprise of regular and increased intake of fruits, vegetables and calcium rich foods.
3) Increased intake of soluble fibers e.g. apples, oatmeal, kidney beans, pears, almonds, peanuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, bananas, oranges, grapes, grape fruits, pineapples, carrots, potatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes. A diet rich in soluble fibers bind cholesterol and bile acid for excretion rather than absorption resulting in lower body cholesterol.
4) Lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for heart disease. It affects your risk of heart disease both on its own and by its effects on other major risk factors. Regular physical activity can help you manage your weight and, in that way, help lower your LDL. It also can help raise HDL and lower triglycerides, improve the fitness of your heart and lungs, and lower blood pressure.
Cholesterol regulatory drug treatment must be associated with both lifestyle and diet changes.
There are five types of cholesterol lowering medicines: statins, bile acid sequestrants, nicotinic acid, fibrates and ezetimibe.
Satin is the drug of first choice for treating high levels of cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia).
Conditions characterized by high levels of Low Density Lipid-Cholesterol or high levels of triglyceride concentration or both are treated with a combination of statins and fibrate. Nicotinic acid may be used to further reduce the concentration. This combination therapy should be under the supervision of a specialist due to increased risk of side effects especially muscle effects.
1) Statins: very effective in lowering LDL-cholesterol and it is safe for most people. Rare side effects would be liver and muscle problems. They include; Atorvastatin, Fluvastatin, Pravastatin Sodium, Rosuvastatin, Simvastatin.
2) Bile Acid Sequestrants: sometimes prescribed with statins and are not usually prescribed as the only medication. They include; Colesevelam, colestipol and colestyramine
3) Nicotinic Acids: Lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol Should only be used under a doctor’s supervision e.g. Niaspan
4) Fibrates: Lower triglycerides May increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels. When used with a statin, may increase the chance of muscle problems. They include Bezafibrate, Ciprofibrate, Fenofibrate, Gemfibrozil
5) Ezetimibe: Lowers LDL cholesterol May be used with statins or alone. Acts within the intestine to block cholesterol absorption. E.g. Ezetrol.
I hope you found this information useful. And as usual if you have any medical concerns don’t hesitate to reach out to Dr. Susan Enjema. You could contact her here: Contact Dr Susan Enjema