High Cholesterol: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Medically Reviewed by Checkmark Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Sravanthi Sunkaraneni
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Cholesterol is a fatty molecule that is physiologically useful. Higher blood cholesterol levels are linked to a higher risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, and peripheral arterial disease. According to the Global Burden of Disease project, elevated cholesterol caused about 4.3 million deaths and 88.7 million disability-adjusted life years worldwide. Globally, the burden of high total cholesterol is rising, owing to an ageing population and the westernisation of traditional diets. 

Thus, many people are concerned about their cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels do not constitute a medical issue in and of itself. There are also differing viewpoints on what constitutes an excessive amount. It’s crucial to note that elevated cholesterol is only one of many cardiovascular disease risk factors. As a result, cholesterol levels alone don’t tell anything about a person’s risk.

Symptoms

High cholesterol can have no symptoms at all. Rather, it leads to various health conditions. For example, it can result in a heart attack or stroke.

Causes

The causes of high cholesterol levels are mostly genetics and lifestyle. Some people have high cholesterol since they are children. This is referred to as hereditary hypercholesterolemia or primary hypercholesterolemia. There are numerous varieties of this problem, which can be dangerous to one’s health. Cholesterol levels are impacted by lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise habits. Acquired hypercholesterolemia is the medical term for this condition.

Complications

 Complications related to high cholesterol are as follows:

  1. High cholesterol levels can lead to hazardous plaque buildup on the inside walls of arteries, known as atherosclerosis
  2. When plaques in the arteries rupture or tear, they might create a clot, which can obstruct blood flow or plug an artery. A heart attack is caused by a blockage of blood flow to a section of the heart
  3. When plaques cause obstruction of blood flow in the brain, there can be a stroke.
  4. Peripheral vascular disease affects the arteries outside of the heart and brain. Plaque builds up along the arterial walls in this condition, impairing blood circulation
  5. Too much cholesterol in bile can result in crystallization. These crystals can form into gallbladder stones, causing excruciating pain.

Diagnosis

There are two forms of cholesterol that are commonly examined when looking at cholesterol levels. The impact of the two categories on cardiovascular health is different

  1.  HDL cholesterol: HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels are a measure of how much “good” cholesterol is in total cholesterol. Low HDL cholesterol levels are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Normal to high HDL cholesterol levels are linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease
  2. LDL cholesterol: LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels are a measure of “bad” cholesterol in the body. High levels of LDL cholesterol are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease

In healthy people, the following levels are considered “good”:

  1. Levels of total cholesterol below 200 mg/dL 
  2. LDL cholesterol levels below 130 mg/dL are considered healthy.
  3. HDL cholesterol levels of more than 40 mg/dL in men and more than 50 mg/dL in women are considered healthy

Treatment

The goal of treatment is not just lowering cholesterol levels but it is also about lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. Cholesterol treatments are only considered useful if researchers have examined whether they actually prevent heart disease.

People who are at a higher risk of heart disease are frequently encouraged to take some general precautions as part of their therapy. 

Prevention

Cholesterol levels should be regularly checked with testing becoming more important in those having a higher risk of high cholesterol. Family history of cholesterol problems or heart attacks at a young age may need frequent cholesterol examinations

The following measures will help the general health of the body and better functioning:

  1. Smoking cessation 
  2. Diet should be low in saturated fats. 
  3. Getting sufficient physical activity 
  4. “Mediterranean diet” is a way of eating that is believed to reduce cholesterol
  5.  Weight control

Disclaimer: Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can futher read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

Disclaimer
Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can further read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

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