Hypercholesterolemia is not a disease but it is a symptom that indicates high cholesterol in the body. Normally your body requires certain amounts of cholesterol for normal function and metabolism. But any excess of cholesterol in the blood when you consume more of fatty foods can affect your cardiovascular system causing heart attack and stroke.
Cholesterol is the wax like substance that exists in the cell membrane and is essential for normal metabolism of the body. When too much of cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) is in the blood it will make small deposits (plaque) on the walls of the artery which can eventually cause obstruction in the normal blood flow to vital organs like heart, brain and kidneys. Blood cells affected by plaque can join together to form clots thus completely blocking the blood flow causing heart attack.
HDL and LDL are the two types of cholesterol found in your blood. High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) is considered as “Good” cholesterol and Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) is the “bad” one. Triglycerides are yet another type of cholesterol and any increase in triglyceride will affect the good cholesterol level. For instance when the levels of triglycerides are high it will lower the levels of good cholesterol and increase the volume of bad cholesterol. It is the triglycerides that pose high risk for getting heart attack and stroke.
Normal/desirable level of cholesterol in the blood is 140-200 mg/dl, and you are in the risk line if the reading is between 200-239 mg/dl and you have high cholesterol if the score goes above 240.
LDL Cholesterol or Bad Cholesterol :
Normal: 100-129 mg/dl and for people with high risk of heart disease the level should be below 100 mg/dl
Borderline level: 130-159 mg/dl
High: 160 and above
HDL Cholesterol or Good Cholesterol :
Low: below 40 mg/dl
Manageable: 40-59 mg/dl
Normal level: 60 mg/dl or above
Normal: Lower than 150 mg/dl
Borderline risk: 150-199 mg/dl
High risk: 200 mg/dl or above
A person having hypercholesterolemia will have high levels of triglycerides, high levels of LDL and low or normal levels of HDL cholesterol. Diet and sedentary lifestyle is the main cause for increased cholesterol. By doing some exercises you can bring down your cholesterol level to normal. For severe cases, medications are given to reduce the levels of cholesterol.
In hypercholesterolemia there will be no signs or symptoms to indicate increase in cholesterol. One cannot detect it in early stages unless he takes blood culture. Very often, high cholesterol level is recognized only if the doctor advises you to take blood test for routine checkup.
Eating foods rich in saturated fats is the main cause for getting hypercholesterolemia. Such foods will eventually increase LDL level and triglyceride levels and reduce the HDL or good cholesterol causing serious problems. High cholesterol can be inherited from parents since it can be passed on through the genes to the child from the parents. Genes are known to influence the level of LDL cholesterol and hence hereditary can be another cause for high cholesterol.
Sedentary lifestyle at present is giving no time for many people to do daily exercises and this may contribute for increased cholesterol. People with family history of heart diseases and diabetes have increased risk for developing hypercholesterolemia. For some people it can be caused from internal problem when the liver produces more amounts of cholesterol or if the liver fails to remove bad cholesterol LDL from your blood efficiently. Obese people, diabetic patients, people who don’t do any physical exercise and eat lots of saturated fats are under risk of developing high cholesterol. Smoking and drinking habit can also cause hypercholesterolemia to some extent.
High cholesterol levels can be diagnosed only by checking the blood for lipoproteins. The profile of lipoproteins in your blood will give complete history of LDL, HDL and triglyceride levels in your blood.
Taking timely treatment for hypercholesterolemia reduces the risk of heart disease considerably. The best treatment approach is to make changes in lifestyle combined with taking healthy diet. In mild to moderate levels, sticking on to this approach will give positive results. For severe cases of LDL cholesterol levels, medications are given.
People with LDL level of above 200 mg/dl should start drug therapy along with doing physical exercise and changing their diet habits. Statins are recommended for lowering cholesterol level without major side effects. Medications that are prescribed include Lovastatin, Simvastatin, Rosuvastatin, Atorvastatin and Pravastatin. It can produce adverse effects like stomach upset, joint pain and liver problem.
Niacin is given for reducing the level of bad cholesterol in your blood which can produce side effects like rashes on the skin and headache. Bile acid sequestrants are also given by some doctors for lowering LDL cholesterol. Cholesterol absorption inhibitors like Zetia will restrict the amount of LDL cholesterol that can be absorbed in your body. For some people fibric acid derivatives like Lopid and Fenofibrate are given for lowering the triglyceride levels.
Diet Supplements :
By including plenty of whole wheat, grains, fruits and vegetables you can reduce the level of cholesterol easily. Take foods rich in fiber like oats, beans, barely, apples and flaxseed. They are very effective in lowering the triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in your blood. If there is no fiber in your daily diet you can take supplementary fiber of 25-30 gm daily. Oats are rich in Beta glucan which is effective in lowering the cholesterol in blood.
Soy foods like Tofu, miso etc help you to achieve the desired level of cholesterol. Similarly Omega 3 fatty acids are recommended for to diabetic and heart patients for lowering cholesterol. It is richly found in fish oil and can also be taken as dietary supplement. Individuals with blood related problems should consult their doctor before taking this supplement because this can reduce the density of blood.
Foods that contain vitamin C are good enough for lowering cholesterol levels and you can take up to 200 mg of this vitamin daily. Beta sitosterol and Policosanol are sterol obtained from plants and is useful for easy absorption of cholesterol by the intestine. Coenzyme Q10 is highly effective in controlling the cholesterol and is given for patients who have had an attack. Polyphenols and reservatrol can protect your body from serious disorders by lowering the LDL cholesterol level.
If left untreated, hypercholesterolemia can give rise to heart attack and stroke. It has been proved by studies that if you lower the cholesterol by 1% you are reducing the risk of getting coronary heart problem by 2%. High levels of triglycerides can cause insulin resistance leading to Type 2 diabetes and hypertension. To prevent any complications, you need to check your cholesterol level once in 4 months and follow regular exercise schedule and healthy diet.