MY CHOLESTEROL LEVEL IS HIGH
SHOULD I BE WORRIED?
The body actually needs cholesterol to carry out some of its functions, like maintenance of the cell membrane integrity and production of some hormones in the body; but when it is present in excess (hypercholesterolemia), it becomes worrisome.
It is no longer strange that some people like to check their cholesterol level even though they may not understand what the details of the laboratory investigation imply.
When you go for a ‘cholesterol test’, usually a simple total cholesterol test or a fasting lipid profile may be carried out after a 12- hour fast.
Commonly, you would be asked to carry out the fasting lipid profile in order to treat or prevent diseases such as hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases. Measurement of total (plasma) cholesterol is not sufficient for comprehensive assessment.
The fasting lipid profile would comprise of measurement of total cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglycerides. For the purpose of this discussion, we would emphasize the LDL and HDL.
Low density lipoproteins (LDL):
It is also known as “bad cholesterol” because it delivers cholesterol to the body tissues. Therefore, excess of it is bad because more cholesterol ( lipid) would line the blood vessels and cause problems. If the blood vessels are “faulty”, they will not be able to deliver sufficient blood, consequently nutrients, to the tissues and organs.
High density lipoproteins (HDL):
This is also called “good cholesterol”. It mops up cholesterol from the body tissues. It takes it to the liver which then excretes it through the bile.
When the level of the LDL is more than HDL, there will be more deposition of cholesterol on tissues, especially the blood vessels as earlier mentioned. This puts the individual at risk of having:
- Heart attack
- Poor kidney function
- Gangrene (death) of leg tissues.
What puts one at risk of hypercholesterolemia?
- High dietary intake of cholesterol and saturated fats (such as is present in animal fats, egg yolk, butter)
- Diabetes mellitus
How can I prevent it?
- Dietary modification : omega -3 fatty acids present in fish oils are good; reduce intake of fried foods
- Quit smoking
Treatment would involve dietary modifications with or without medications. However your doctor would help you decide on which would be more beneficial.
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