The Dangers of High Cholesterol

As medical researchers have investigated the role cholesterol plays in the body, the prevailing opinion on the subject has changed. Even with our current knowledge, advice about cholesterol, maintaining healthy levels, and managing its intake continues to evolve. 

What we do know is that your body needs cholesterol to help build healthy cells, aid in digestion, and make vitamin D, among a number of other roles. When you have too much, however, you put yourself at risk of potential health complications. 

Managing your cholesterol levels is especially important if you have other medical conditions, such as heart disease, that contribute to the same complications. High cholesterol has no symptoms, so regular blood tests are necessary to ensure your present and future health.

At Endocrinology and Osteoporosis Centers of Texas in Houston, Pearland, and Pasadena, Texas, Dr. Ashkan Zand and his staff are experts at diagnosing high cholesterol levels and helping you develop a treatment and management plan. Here’s what you need to know:

Cholesterol 101

Most people aren’t aware that your body naturally produces cholesterol — a sticky, waxy substance — and maintains it at optimal levels. 

You actually don’t need cholesterol from your diet to supply your needs, but you get it every time you eat animal products like meat, butter, eggs, and cheese. That means you can build up a greater supply than your body can process. 

Excess cholesterol mixes with other molecules and cellular debris in your bloodstream to form plaque that sticks to artery walls, making them narrow and stiff. This is called atherosclerosis, and it can lead to high blood pressure, decreased blood flow, and serious heart disease.

What makes up cholesterol?

Lipoproteins in your blood are made of a combination of fat and protein. Cholesterol attaches to these to travel through your body. Not all lipoproteins are the same, though, so cholesterol can have different effects depending on which molecule it binds to.

High-density lipoproteins (HDL)

HDL is referred to as your “good cholesterol,” because when a cholesterol molecule attaches, the complex returns the cholesterol to your liver for disposal. High HDL levels are good for you.

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL)

LDL, on the other hand, is known as your “bad cholesterol.” When cholesterol attaches to the LDL molecule, the LDL delivers it to wherever your body needs it. 

When LDL levels build up in the blood, it means you have more cholesterol than your body requires. As a result, the cholesterol sticks to your artery walls rather than being eliminated. 

Very low density lipoproteins (VLDL)

VLDL is also considered a “bad cholesterol” molecule because it contributes to artery clogging. Instead of cholesterol, though, VLDL binds with triglycerides, a fat that accumulates in your arteries when you regularly take in more calories than you burn. 

Causes of high cholesterol

While a fatty diet is a major source of high cholesterol levels, you can develop high cholesterol if you have one or more of the following risk factors: 

How to prevent high cholesterol and its complications

The most effective way to deal with high cholesterol is to prevent it before it happens.

Making lifestyle changes that include regular exercise and a heart-healthy diet can make all the difference in the world. Such a diet includes eating lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and poultry, and limiting added fats, sugar, and highly processed foods. 

It’s important to remember that you can only influence your dietary cholesterol levels. If your body naturally produces too much cholesterol, Dr. Zand may need to prescribe medications to reduce the levels.

If you’re interested in learning more about how high cholesterol impacts your health, or if you want to make sure your levels are in the normal range, call the Endocrinology and Osteoporosis Centers of Texas office most convenient to you or schedule your appointment online today.

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