In simple words, cholesterol is a substance that is present in our body naturally in membranes and cell wall of the human body. It is fat-like and buttery and is used to produce substances like bile acids, hormones and vitamin D to digest the fat present in our body. It travels in special proteins. It basically comes from two sources:
‘ The food we eat. However, there is no cholesterol in plant based foods. It only comes from products of animals.
‘ Your body makes cholesterol on its own, with yor choice of food not mattering
The cholesterol travels in combination with proteins. These combinations are called ‘Lipoproteins’. These ‘Lipoproteins’ are of two types:
‘ High Density Lipoproteins (also referred to as good cholesterol or HDLs)
‘ Low Density Lipoproteins (also referred to as bad cholesterol or LDLs)
Good Cholesterol which is called high density lipoproteins is a blob which is microscopic and constitutes of rim of lipoproteins that surrounds the center cholesterol. The high density of cholesterol particles in HDLs as compared to density of particles of cholesterol in other types is the reason these particles are called High Density Lipoproteins. They are useful in following ways:
‘ It hunts for bad cholesterol and removes them
‘ It reuses, reduces and recycles LDL cholesterol by transferring it to the liver where it can be converted
‘ They keep the walls of our blood vessels clean, thus reducing the risk of heart attack and strokes.
Bad Cholesterol which is called low density lipoproteins isn’t actually totally bad. These are fats that are crucial for your body cells. Some of these cholesterol enter our body from our diet while some are produced by our liver. The proteins in our blood carry the cholesterol since it is unable to dissolve in blood. It is these carriers which are called lipoproteins. They are bad in the following ways:
‘ During childhood or adolescence, they start depositing on the walls of our arteries
‘ In the process of processing the blood vessels, the white blood cells try to digest them and convert the LDL into an oxidized form of toxic waste.
‘ More and more white blood cells reach that place and slowly start to create inflammation on the walls of the arteries that is steady and low-grade.
‘ More LDL keeping collecting at that area leading to creation of a bump called plaque which leads to blockage of the artery.
As the name suggests, high cholesterol or Hyperlipidemia is the increase of cholesterol level in different parts of the body. It causes by:
‘ Lifestyle: The way you live your life has an important role in keeping you away from having high cholesterol. Unhealthy diet, lack of physical exericise, obesity, consumption of excessive quantity of alcohol and smoking are sure to cause high cholesterol.
‘ Other factors: They include hypertension and diabetes. People suffering from these two diseases have high chances of suffering from high cholesterol. Family history and age are also factors that affect cholesterol. People from the Indian sub-continent have higher chances of having this disease.
Symptoms of High Cholesterol
Often referred to as the ‘silent killer’, the symptoms of high cholesterol are:
‘ Heart Attack: This is caused by the blockage of one of the arteries or more which is linked to the heart
‘ Angina: This is caused by the narrowing of one of the arteries or more which is linked to the heart
‘ Pain while talking: This is caused by the blockage of an artery that connect to the muscles of the legs
‘ Stroke: This is caused by the blockage of an artery that connects to the brain or neck.
Low cholesterol or Hypolipidemia low fat level in the blood. The causes include:
‘ Lack of food or malnutrition
‘ Low level of red blood cells called Anemia
‘ Inability of the body to absorb food
‘ Tangier Disease
‘ Liver Disease
‘ Very rare genetic conditions like abetalipoproteinemia or hypobetalipoproteinemia
Symptoms of Low Cholesterol
The symptoms of low cholesterol are:
‘ Depression, memory impairment, excessive anger, emotional instability, Schizophrenia and various other psychological disorders and neuropathies
‘ Among children, nerve development and impairment of brain which can lead to various developmental problems.
‘ Erectile Dysfunction, infertility and reproductive problems
‘ Adrenal exhaustion
‘ Problems in digestion
‘ Decrease in functioning of the immunity system
Treatment for Cholesterol
On your part, all you can do is to start making changes in your lifestyle. Start eating a more balanced and healthy diet. Exercise your way to good health and lose those extra kilos. These are more than enough if you want to decease your cholesterol level. For some, medicines work while some require a combination of both.