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The Dangers of High Cholesterol

High cholesterol can be a burden on the arteries and also your health. Here’s how to combat.

When Ramona Richman’s sister had been diagnosed with elevated cholesterol, Richman wasn’t worried about her risk. She was a San Francisco Bay Area stay-at-home mom was in good shape and her weight was under control and assumed the food she ate was nutritious. When her doctor announced her news of the fact that she also was suffering from high cholesterol she was stunned. Her cholesterol reading at 269 mg/dL is over the desired levels that is below 200 mg/dL. “My sister was diagnosed with high cholesterol and was prescribed medicine, therefore I believe that it’s genetic,” Richman, 48 says.

Genes are often a contributing reason for high cholesterol, however, so is being overweight, not exercising or eating foods that are packed with saturated fats and cholesterol. The liver produces all the cholesterol your body needs however many people receive large amounts through their food. No matter the reason high cholesterol is a risk. It is a key factor in the progression of atherosclerosis, which is the narrowing and hardening of arteries, which increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

When doctors speak of high cholesterol, they aren’t referring to that amount of cholesterol one receives from food or drinks, but rather the amount of the substance is circulated within the blood. Atherosclerosis is the primary cause is the elevated LDL cholesterol, which is the “bad” type that is associated with “increased chance of having heart attacks and death from cardiovascular disease” states Antonio M. Gotto Jr., MD who is a professor of medical sciences of medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and an expert in atherosclerosis and cholesterol.

Atherosclerosis is a slow process. “It can begin as early as the course of life,” Gotto says. The appearance of fat streaks is common in the arteries of adolescents. autopsies of males who are in their 20s shown “significant plaques in coronary arteries” Gotto says. “It does not happen over the course of a single night.” As time passes the accumulation of plaque can become a health risk, increasing the chance of suffering from heart attacks and stroke as we enter our 40s, 50s or 60s Gotto says. “Coronary disease is a dramatic rise in the 50s for men, and later in the 50s and early 60s for women.”
How do Arteries Harden

What causes atherosclerosis to develop? In an artery that is healthy the inner lining called endothelium, is smooth and unaffected. However, injury or diseasesuch as diabetes or high blood pressure and high cholesterol can alter the lining of the artery and lead to atherosclerosis.

Scientists don’t know the mechanism by which high cholesterol damages the arteries, Gotto claims, however, Gotto offers a hypothesis that the fatty acids absorbed by LDL are oxidized, and cause damage to the blood vessel walls. “The more LDL circulating in blood and the more wall is injured.” An inflammatory reaction ensues, Gotto says. “The blood vessel reacts with the body’s response to an injury. It reacts to this just as if you had scratched with your fingers.”

Atherosclerosis starts when white blood cells migrate into the artery’s lining wall. They turn into foam cells that build up cholesterol and fat. Other substances, including calcium, are also accumulated in the area. At some point, an atherosclerotic clot or atheroma forms.

The plaques enlarge and harden the artery wall , and then bulge into the bloodstream, causing a reduction or stop the flow of blood. If an atheroma ruptures it could create a blood clot, leading to a stroke or heart attack. Atherosclerosis most often affects the coronary artery that runs through the left anterior (one of the major arterial arteries in the heartand carotid arteries of the neck, as well as the abdominal aorta Gotto states.
Then Lowering Your Cholesterol

While LDL is dangerous, HDL, a “good” cholesterol type is beneficial to arteries. Apart from reducing the inflammation of damaged blood vessels, “it hinders the oxidation that occurs in LDL,” Gotto says, “and we think that HDL can draw some cholesterol from the cells that line the arterial wall and transfer it to liver which is where the body gets rid of the cholesterol. The higher the amount of HDL is, the less likely you are to suffer coronary heart attack and diseases.”

Check your cholesterol levels The doctor states. “It’s recommended to speak to your physician about atherosclerosis prior to when you start to notice symptoms. And unfortunately for many the first sign of symptoms could be fatal in the event of an unexpected cardiac demise or arrest.”

Gotto suggests that patients talk with their physician about risk factors for atherosclerosis even while in their 20s. Then, they should take a blood test to measure cholesterol levels. Prior to age 40, take an annual check every 3 to 5 years for cholesterol, Gotto advises, while after 40, take a test each year.

When Richman was unable to settle her findings she switched out whole-milk products with dairy products that are low in fat. She consumed more heart-healthy fish. She also started walking an hour 5 times a week. The results have been slowly. The cholesterol readings of her have fallen somewhat from 269 to 247 and she hopes to bring her cholesterol levels down enough to not require cholesterol medication.

“At first, I was thinking ‘Oh my god, I’m sick I’m sick!'” she states. “But I started to get my levels back down which has been positive.”