Increased cholesterol levels

Cholestrol is a fatty substance made in our liver that comes in two forms: LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. If you have high cholesterol, this means that your blood contains too much cholesterol. You usually don’t notice this. However, high cholesterol levels can have far-reaching consequences, such as cardiovascular disease. An increased cholesterol level accelerates the clogging of the arteries, which can cause arteriosclerosis.

Too high cholesterol

  • Cholesterol
  • Measuring the cholesterol level
  • The cause of increased cholesterol levels
  • Treatment of high cholesterol levels
  • Healthy eating and cholesterol

The cholesterol in our body is partly produced by our liver , the other part is consumed through our diet . Some products, such as eggs, directly provide cholesterol. Other products are converted into cholesterol by our body, such as saturated fat. Cholesterol has a useful function in our body. It helps with the construction of body cells and the production of hormones, vitamin D and bile acids .

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a substance that belongs to a group called lipids (‘fats’). There are different types of lipids, cholesterol is one of them.
There are two types of cholesterol ; LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. HDL stands for High Density Lipoprotein and is the beneficial type of cholesterol. This absorbs the bad LDL cholesterol from the blood and takes it to the liver where it is broken down. LDL is the abbreviation of Low Density Lipoprotein and is unfavorable for health because it attaches to the blood vessel walls where they cause the arteries to clog. This is called artherosclerosis .

Measuring the cholesterol level

People often discover that they have too high a cholesterol level when they go to the doctor for a completely different problem, or when they have to do an examination for work, for example. You can find out your cholesterol level with the help of a blood test . A tube of blood is taken and analyzed in the laboratory. If an initial measurement shows that you have an elevated cholesterol level, a second test is done to be sure. There should be at least a week’s interval between these measurements. There is also a type of cholesterol test that you can do at home.
Your cholesterol level is not constant, it fluctuates . Partly for this reason, a second measurement is always taken. These measurements measure your total cholesterol level , which is the sum of both types of cholesterol. With the help of a third measurement, the precise values of both forms can be determined.
What exactly is measured? This is the value of the amount of millimoles per liter of blood , abbreviated as mmol/l. There is an increased cholesterol level with a value of more than 5 mmol/l. However, ‘Too high’ is not an indicator of a huge risk factor. If someone is otherwise healthy, eats healthily and exercises sufficiently, a slightly elevated cholesterol level does not have to be an obstacle.

The cause of increased cholesterol levels

After a positive blood test result, an attempt will be made to determine the cause of the increased cholesterol. In many cases, no specific physical cause can be identified and the condition is a result of the interplay between certain eating and lifestyle habits. There is also a hereditary form of elevated cholesterol , this is called hereditary dyslipidemia . However, certain medications and certain diseases can lead to increased cholesterol levels and consequences.

Risk factors for elevated cholesterol levels

There are various risk factors that contribute to the development of high cholesterol levels:

  • Smoking
  • High bloodpressure
  • Diabetes
  • Age: the older you are, the greater the chance of high cholesterol levels
  • Men are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than women

 

Treatment of high cholesterol levels

The treatment of high cholesterol will mainly revolve around reducing the number and strength of risk factors . The main goal is to drastically reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Often someone’s entire lifestyle is adjusted, this is the only way to lower cholesterol levels.

Start living healthier

The most common risk factors relate to lifestyle. This includes food, exercise, habits, etc. You can convert these risk factors into protective factors by tackling bad habits and unhealthy living. Many risk factors are interrelated and mutually influence each other. For example, stress contributes to high blood pressure and high blood pressure contributes to high cholesterol levels.

Medication

In some cases, the cause of high cholesterol levels is due to a physical cause, such as a certain other condition. However, medications are often only used when people do not seem to be helped (enough) with lifestyle adjustments.
There are four groups of cholesterol-lowering medications:

  1. Statins
  2. Fibrates
  3. Bile acid binding resins
  4. Nicotinic acid analogues

Statins are the preferred treatment with medication. These medications have the fewest known side effects. Statins inhibit the production of cholesterol in the liver. They lower bad LDL cholesterol and increase good HDL cholesterol. Well-known statins have brand names such as Lipitor, Canef, Selektine, Crestor and Zocor.
Fibrates lower LDL cholesterol levels less than statins. However, they also increase HDL levels. This is often the drug of choice for people with diabetes. Well-known brand names of fibrates are Bezalip, Hyperlipen, Modalim, Clofibrate and Lopid.
Bile acid sequestrants are medications that are inconvenient to use. This medication should be taken with a powder before, during or shortly after meals. This should include three to six packs per day. These medications are very safe and have brand names such as Colestid, Colestyramine and Questran.
Nicotinic acid analogues are hardly prescribed anymore because they are quite expensive and have many side effects. This medication is issued under brand names such as Nedios and Complamin.

Treat cause

In rare cases, elevated cholesterol is related to a physical condition, such as thyroid or kidney disease. In these cases it may be advisable to address the primary cause, then the cholesterol level will automatically decrease.

Healthy eating and cholesterol

Eating healthy is one of the essential steps for lowering cholesterol levels. This can be done with the help of a cholesterol-lowering diet . This generally consists of the following ingredients:

  • Varied food
  • Moderate in saturated fats
  • Eat plenty of bread, pasta, rice and potatoes
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Maintaining the weight
  • Use salt sparingly
  • Drink a lot (with the exception of alcoholic drinks)

 

Saturated fats

Our body produces cholesterol itself. Under the influence of saturated fats, the body produces even more cholesterol, which can lead to increased cholesterol levels. It is therefore important to limit
the intake of saturated fats . The difference between saturated and unsaturated fat is that saturated fat cannot bind other substances and unsaturated fats can. Saturated fats have a bad effect on LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol. Unsaturated fats increase HDL cholesterol levels, the good cholesterol.
Some products contain a large amount of saturated fat:

  • Organ meat
  • Eggs
  • Snacks
  • Frying fat
  • Products with whole milk
  • Shrimp and eel

Many animal products contain saturated fat. A kind of ‘rule of thumb’ is that liquid fats are better than solid fats.
Some products contain a large amount of unsaturated fat:

  • Olive oil, sunflower oil and salad oil
  • Halvarine and margarine
  • Oily fish (such as herring, mackerel and salmon)
  • Peanuts and nuts
  • Liquid baking and frying products
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