Causes and Risks of High Level Cholesterol – Complete Guide!


What is High Level Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a substance that the liver produces naturally. It is vital for the formation of cell membranes, vitamin D and certain hormones. Cholesterol is a waxy and fat-like substance. It does not dissolve in water and, therefore, cannot travel through the blood itself. Lipoproteins are other particles formed in the liver that help transport cholesterol through the bloodstream. There are several important forms of lipoproteins that are important for your health.

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as “bad cholesterol,” can build up in the arteries and cause serious health problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. High-density lipoproteins (HDL), sometimes called “good cholesterol,” help return LDL cholesterol to the liver for elimination. The liver produces all the cholesterol that is needed, but fats and cholesterol are present in many of the foods we eat today. Eating too many foods that contain excessive amounts of fat increases the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood. This is called having high cholesterol. High cholesterol is also called hypercholesterolemia. High cholesterol is especially dangerous when HDL cholesterol levels are too low and LDL cholesterol levels are too high. Cholesterol usually causes no symptoms. It is important to eat healthy and regularly monitor cholesterol levels. When left untreated, high cholesterol can cause many health problems, such as a heart attack or stroke.

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 What Causes High Cholesterol?

High cholesterol usually gets worse when you eat too many unhealthy foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats and trans fats. For example:

  • Red meat
  • Liver and other viscera
  • Complete dairy products such as cheese, milk, ice cream and butter
  • Eggs(the yolk)
  • Fried foods, such as french fries, , fried chicken and onion rings
  • Peanut butter
  • Some baked goods, such as muffins
  • Processed foods made with cocoa butter, palm oil or coconut oil
  • Chocolate

High cholesterol can also be genetic in many cases. This means that it is not caused only by food, but by the way in which genes instruct the body to process cholesterol and fats. Other conditions, such as diabetes and hypothyroidism, can also contribute to high level of cholesterol. Smoking can also increase cholesterol problems.

 Who is at Risk of Having High Cholesterol?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a third of American adults have raised LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels. People of all ages, ethnic groups and genders may have more cholesterol.

It represents an increased risk of high cholesterol:

  • Have a family history of cholesterol
  • Eat a diet that contains an excessive amount of saturated fat
  • Tiener overweight or obesity
  • Tiener diabetes, kidney disease or hypothyroidism

What are the Symptoms of High Level of Cholesterol?

In most cases, high cholesterol is a silent problem that causes no symptoms. For most people, their first symptoms are events such as a heart attack or stroke. In rare cases, there are family syndromes where cholesterol levels are extremely high (familial hypercholesterolemia). These people have cholesterol levels of 300 milligrams per deciliter (mg / dL) or more. These people may show symptoms of high level of cholesterol that are due to cholesterol deposits (xanthomas) on their tendons or under their eyelids (xanthalasmas). 

How is High Cholesterol Diagnosed?

High level of cholesterol is very easy to diagnose with a blood test called a lipid panel, a lipid panel measures total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides. The doctor will take a blood sample and send it to a laboratory for analysis. You may not be required to eat or drink anything for at least 12 hours before the test.

 What are Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines the following blood cholesterol levels as “desirable”, or for what you should aim for):

  • Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg / dL
  • LDL cholesterol: less than 100 mg / dL
  • HDL cholesterol: 40 mg / dL or higher
  • Triglycerides: less than 150 mg / dL

These recommendations are for the general and healthy public. Cholesterol levels may be different if you already have other conditions, such as diabetes. The doctor can determine healthy levels in each case.

 How is High Cholesterol Treated?

“Committing to exercise and a healthy diet is usually enough to lower cholesterol levels”.

Sometimes medication is needed. This is especially true if LDL cholesterol levels are very high.


The most frequently prescribed medications to treat high level of cholesterol are called statins. Statins work by blocking the liver so that it does not produce more cholesterol. These medications also indirectly lower blood levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and some of them may also raise the level of “good” cholesterol, HDL.

Examples of Statins Include:

  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • Fluvastatin (Lescol)
  • Rosuvastatin (Crestor)
  • Simvastatin (Zocor)

 Other Medications for High Cholesterol Include:

  • Niacin
  • Resins or bile acid sequestrants such as cholesevalam (Welchol), colestipol (Colestid) or cholestyramine (Prevalite)
  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors, such as ezetimibe (Zetia)

There are also combined products that decrease the absorption of cholesterol that is consumed and reduce the production of cholesterol in the liver. An example is a combination of ezetimibe and simvastatin (Vytorin).

Changes in Lifestyle:

Since a person’s lifestyle generally makes cholesterol level worse, lifestyle changes are crucial to lower it. Following these steps helps reduce cholesterol:

  • Eat a diet low in saturated and trans fats. Lean meats, such as chicken and fish that are not fried, and many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are useful. Avoid fried or fatty foods, as well as too many carbohydrates and processed sugars.
  • Eat fish that contains omega-3fatty acids, which can help reduce LDL cholesterol. Salmon, mackerel and herring, for example, are rich in omega-3. Nuts, ground flaxseed and almonds also contain omega-3.
  • Avoid excessive amounts of alcohol.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
  • Give up smoking.

What Foods are Good for Lowering Cholesterol?

Legumes, healthy avocado fats, olive oil and nuts (almonds and walnuts), fatty fish rich in omega 3 (salmon and mackerel), whole grains (oats and barley), fruits (apple, citrus fruits, grapes and strawberries), soy-based foods, garlic, tea, vegetables (okra, eggplants, carrots and potatoes) and vegetables (kale and spinach) help lower cholesterol. Here a more detailed list:

1. Legumes:

The legumes contain much fiber, minerals and good amounts of protein. Replacing some refined grains and processed meats in your diet with legumes can reduce your risk of heart disease. A review of 26 randomized controlled studies found that eating half a cup (118 ml) of legumes per day is effective in reducing LDL cholesterol by an average of 6.6 mg / dl, compared to not eating legumes.

2. Avocados:

The avocados are exceptionally nutrient – rich fruit. They are a rich source of monunsaturated fats and fiber , two heart-healthy nutrients that help reduce LDL and raise healthy HDL cholesterol. Clinical studies support the cholesterol-lowering effect of avocados.

3. Nuts, Especially Almonds and Nuts:

They are very high in monounsaturated fats. Walnuts are also rich in the vegetable variety of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat that is related to heart health. Walnuts also contain protein. They are particularly rich in L-arginine, an amino acid that helps produce nitric oxide. This, in turn, helps regulate blood pressure. Walnuts also contain phytosterols. These plant compounds are structurally similar to cholesterol and help reduce cholesterol by blocking its absorption in the intestines. Eating a daily serving of nuts is related to a 28% lower risk of fatal and non-fatal heart disease.

4. Fatty Fish:

Fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, are excellent sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are linked to better heart health through increased HDL cholesterol and reduced inflammation and the risk of stroke. Keep in mind that the healthiest ways to eat fish are baked, broiled, roasted or raw. Fried fish can actually increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Fish is an important part of the Mediterranean diet, which has been extensively studied for its cardiac health benefits. Some of the heart’s protective benefits of fish may also come from certain peptides found in fish protein.

5. Whole Grains, Especially Oats and Barley:

Extensive research links whole grains with a lower risk of heart disease. In fact, a review of 45 studies related the daily consumption of three servings of whole grains with a 20% lower risk of heart disease and stroke. The benefits were even greater with more servings of whole grains, up to seven servings per day. Whole grains have intact all parts of the grain, which gives them more vitamins, minerals, plant compounds and fiber than refined grains. While all whole grains can promote heart health, two grains are particularly important:

  • Oatmeal:Contains beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that helps reduce cholesterol. Eating oatmeal is related to a 5% reduction in total cholesterol and a 7% reduction in LDL cholesterol.
  • Barley:It is also rich in beta-glucans and may help reduce LDL cholesterol.

6. Fruits and Berries:

Many types of fruit are rich in soluble fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol levels. They do this by encouraging the body to eliminate cholesterol and inhibit the formation of cholesterol in the liver. It has been shown that a type of soluble fiber called pectin lowers cholesterol by up to 10%. It is found in fruits such as apples, grapes, citrus fruits and strawberries. Fruits also contain bioactive compounds that help prevent heart disease and other chronic diseases due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Eating berries and grapes, which are particularly rich sources of these plant compounds, can help increase HDL cholesterol and reduce LDL cholesterol.

7. Dark Chocolate and Cocoa:

Cocoa is the main ingredient in dark chocolate. It may seem too good to be true, but research supports claims that dark chocolate and cocoa can reduce LDL cholesterol. One study found promising results after healthy adults drank a cocoa drink twice a day for a month. Those who drank cocoa saw a reduction in LDL cholesterol of 0.17 mmol / l (equivalent to 6.5 mg / dl). His blood pressure also decreased and HDL cholesterol increased. Cocoa and dark chocolate also seem to be able to protect LDL cholesterol in the blood from oxidation, which is a key step on the road to heart disease. However, keep in mind that chocolate often has a high added sugar content, which negatively affects the health of the heart. Therefore, you must consume the cocoa directly or choose dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 75-85% or higher.

 8. Garlic:

The garlic contains several powerful plant compounds, including allicin, which is the principal active compound in garlic. Many studies have strongly linked garlic with lowering blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. Others have suggested that garlic may help reduce total and LDL cholesterol, although the effect is less strong. Because relatively large amounts of garlic are needed to achieve this protective effect of the heart, most research has been carried out using supplements. Many studies have used aged garlic supplements, which are considered more reliable than other garlic preparations.

 9. Soy Foods:

Soy is a type of legume that can be beneficial for heart health. While the results of the studies have been inconsistent, the most recent research is positive. A 2015 analysis of 35 studies found that eating soy foods is related to reductions in LDL and total cholesterol and increased HDL cholesterol. The effect seems to be stronger in people with high level of cholesterol.

10. Vegetables:

Vegetables are rich in fiber and antioxidants and low in calories, which is useful for maintaining a healthy weight. Some vegetables are particularly rich in pectin, the same soluble fiber that lowers the cholesterol found in apples and oranges. Pectin-rich vegetables also include okra, eggplants, carrots and potatoes. Vegetables also contain a variety of plant compounds. These plant compounds are related to health benefits, including protection against heart disease.

11. Tea:

Tea contains many plant compounds that are related to better heart health. Although green tea receives a lot of attention, black tea and white tea have similar properties and effects on health. These are two of the main compounds in tea that provide benefits:

  • Cetechin: It can help the heart in several ways. It helps activate nitric oxide, which is important for healthy blood pressure. It also inhibits the synthesis and absorption of cholesterol and helps prevent blood clots.
  • Quercetin: It can improve the function of blood vessels and decrease inflammation.

12. Dark Leafy Green Vegetables:

While all vegetables are good for the heart, green leafy vegetables are particularly useful. Dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach, contain lutein and other carotenoids, which are related to a lower risk of heart disease. Carotenoids act as antioxidants to eliminate harmful free radicals that can lead to atherosclerosis, which is the hardening of the arteries. Dark green leafy vegetables can also help reduce cholesterol levels by binding to bile acids and causing the body to excrete more cholesterol. One study suggested that lutein lowers oxidized LDL cholesterol levels and may help prevent cholesterol from binding to arterial walls.

13. Extra Virgin Olive Oil:

One of the most important foods in a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet is olive oil extra virgin oil. One study gave participants 4 tablespoons a day following a Mediterranean diet. The group that consumed olive oil had a 30% lower risk of major cardiac events, such as stroke and heart attack, compared to people who followed a low-fat diet. Those were the results of a five-year intervention study in older adults at risk of heart disease. Olive oil is a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids, the type that can help raise HDL cholesterol levels and reduce LDL cholesterol. It is also a source of polyphenols, some of which have been shown to reduce inflammation that can lead to heart disease.

What Types of Doctors Treat uncontrolled Cholesterol?

The primary care physician will generally be the first to measure cholesterol levels. Usually, a lipid panel is performed during a routine physical exam with the primary care physician. You can refer a specialist if you have a high risk of heart disease. For example, if you are overweight or if it is difficult to follow a diet low in saturated fat or exercise regularly. Specialists who treat or help control the cholesterol include the following:

  • Cardiologists are doctors who specialize in heart disorders.
  • Nutritionists or registered dietitians are professionals who can help analyze the current diet.
  • Lipidologists are doctors who specialize in the study of blood fats.
  • Exercise physiologists help people create personalized plans for more exercise and physical activity.
  • Endocrinologists are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis of diseases related to the glands.

 What Happens When You Have High Cholesterol?

If left untreated, cholesterol can contribute to plaque formation in the arteries and cause atherosclerosis. Over time, cholesterol deposits (plaque) can narrow the arteries and let less blood pass. Atherosclerosis is a serious disease that can cause many life-threatening complications. These complications include:

  • Heart attack
  • Angina (chest pain)
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Chronic kidney disease if plaque builds up in the renal arteries, which supply blood to the kidneys

 How can High Cholesterol be Prevented?

High level of cholesterol caused by genetic factors cannot be prevented. There are things that can be done to help lower your cholesterol to a more desirable level or prevent it from becoming a serious problem:

  • To exercise
  • Eat a healthy diet low in animal fats.
  • Eat baked, grilled, steamed, grilled and roasted foods instead of fried foods.
  • Choose lean meat.
  • Choose dairy products low-fat or fat – free.
  • Avoid fast food and junk food.
  • Eat a diet high in fiber.
  • No smoking, as it damages blood vessels and greatly increases a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Although, moderate alcohol consumption (no more than two drinks a day) can actually raise beneficial HDL cholesterol levels.
  • Check cholesterol regularly. The American Heart Association recommends that cholesterol levels be checked every four to six years if you are an adult over 20 years old. Cholesterol may need to be controlled more frequently if you have a higher risk of high cholesterol.
  • Keep a healthy weight.

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