Cholesterol is a very important substance that your body produces naturally. It plays a pivotal role in your cells and also helps nerve cells throughout the body function to their highest potential. While cholesterol is very important in the body, the warning signs of having high cholesterol are not easy to detect.
High cholesterol levels, specifically LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, can wreak havoc on the body. This type of cholesterol can cause your arteries to begin to collect build-ups of plaque and become clogged. If these clogs ever rupture, they can spell disaster and lead to strokes and heart attacks.
In this article, we will be explaining what cholesterol is and what signs point to having high cholesterol levels.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that your liver produces. It’s vital for the formation of cell membranes, the production of vitamin D, and the maintenance of key hormones.
There are two main forms of cholesterol present in the body:
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL)
Low-density lipoproteins also known as “bad cholesterol,” can build up in the arteries and lead to serious health problems that include heart attacks or strokes.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL)
High-density lipoproteins are sometimes called “good cholesterol,” collects and returns the LDL cholesterol to the liver for elimination.
Eating too many foods that are high in fat will increase levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood. This is known as high cholesterol, hypercholesterolemia, or hyperlipidemia. If levels of LDL cholesterol levels are too high or if HDL cholesterol is not present, then fatty, plaque deposits will begin to build up in your arteries. These deposits cause clogs and put a strain on your heart to pump blood through clogged arteries. This causes significant problems throughout your body, particularly in your heart and brain.
Warning Signs Of High Cholesterol
High cholesterol itself does not have any symptoms that it presents. The only signs you will get are those that signify that it is too late – this includes potentially fatal events including heart attacks and strokes.
High cholesterol simply leads to plaque buildups accruing in your arteries, which is something that is impossible to detect without blood testing. A blood test is the only way to know if your cholesterol is too high.
For this reason, it is always a good time to get your cholesterol checked. Most doctors recommend that children get cholesterol tests done to predetermine any risk factors they may have, while adults should have theirs checked every 2-3 years. This is even more important for individuals who are overweight, diabetic, or have a poor diet and non-active lifestyle. Smoking is also a risk factor for high cholesterol.
What Foods Contain Cholesterol?
There are several animal fats that are sources of cholesterol. Animal fats are complex mixtures of triglycerides and contain lower amounts of cholesterols and phospholipids.
Major dietary sources of cholesterol include cheese, egg yolks, beef, pork, poultry, and shrimp. Plants do not typically contain cholesterol, however, plant products such as flax seeds and peanuts may contain cholesterol-like compounds called phytosterols. These are good types of cholesterol and help in lowering bad cholesterol levels.
Saturated fats and trans fats in food are the worst culprits and should be avoided as often as possible, especially for people over the age of 30 or who are at higher risk. Saturated fats are present in full-fat dairy products, animal fats, several types of oils, and chocolates. Trans fats are present in hydrogenated oils and are not found in significant amounts in nature. These are found in many fast foods, snack foods, and deep-fried goods – which are important to avoid if you are at risk.
Due to the fact that high cholesterol doesn’t cause symptoms in the early stages, it’s important to make good lifestyle choices that minimize the risk for bad cholesterol to buildup. We, along with a majority of doctors, advise that patients eat a healthy diet, maintain an exercise routine, and regularly monitor their cholesterol levels by getting tested regularly, or as the American Heart Association advises.
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