Having high cholesterol is dangerous. Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol is a silent assassin and you might not be aware you are at risk until you drop dead one fine day. Unfortunately, high levels of blood cholesterol are very common and around one in six people have high cholesterol. So why is having a high cholesterol level so dangerous and what can we do about it?
Cholesterol may frequently be vilified in the media, but we do actually need it for our bodies to function properly. Cholesterol is found in every cell in the body. It is used to make hormones, Vitamin D and cell membranes. We also get cholesterol from our diet: it’s found in eggs, meat and dairy products.
Good and Bad Cholesterol
At optimum levels, cholesterol is good, but the problems begin when blood cholesterol levels rise and our body has more than it needs. Too much cholesterol in the blood can cause a build-up of sticky deposits on arterial walls, rather like sludge in a central heating system.
Cholesterol is transported by lipoproteins, of which there are two types: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL is referred to as the “bad” type because it deposits excess cholesterol in the arteries whereas HDL is the good type, as it removes excess cholesterol and drops it in the liver to be reprocessed. If you have high levels of HDL but low levels of LDL, it shouldn’t be a problem, but if the opposite is true, you are at risk of heart disease or a stroke.
Cholesterol Related Heart Attacks
Our arteries are the motorways of the circulatory system. If there is a blockage, it causes serious problems, in much the same way as a broken down lorry on the M25 does during rush hour. When there is too much LDL in the blood, a sticky plaque accumulates on your artery walls, which makes it difficult for the blood to flow freely.
In the early stages, you might begin to suffer from angina or chest pain during exercise. This will feel a little like indigestion, but in fact it is a sign that you have a problem. If nothing is done to treat the problem and you don’t start taking cholesterol tablets, there is a strong possibility that a blood clot will form, which could cause a heart attack.
Are You at Risk of a Stroke?
High LDL cholesterol can also cause a stroke if left untreated. Blood clots are most often associated with heart attacks, but if a blood clot forms in an artery supplying the brain with blood and oxygen, it will cause a stroke.
Not everyone thinks they are at risk from high cholesterol, but it is possible to be perfectly fit and healthy and still have high levels of LDL. In some cases, high cholesterol is an inherited problem, so it is important to have your fasting cholesterol levels checked regularly, even if you don’t have any symptoms. Medication to reduce high cholesterol is available on prescription, or can be purchased online from a reputable site such as Naked Medics.