High cholesterol… did you just roll your eyes and stop reading? It is easy to be dismissive of this oft- used diagnosis… after all, who likes hearing how they need to cut back on pizza and start a healthy diet? What should rattle us sufficiently though is the fact that around 50% of all heart attacks are associated with high cholesterol and over 5.5 million South Africans are at risk of a disease due to high cholesterol levels.
High cholesterol… hyperlipidemia… lets get clarity on what it is:
Hyperlipidemia, or high cholesterol, refers to high levels of fat proteins in the blood. Cholesterol is a waxy fat protein made by the liver. Most people will have no symptoms, but having hyperlipidemia increases the risk of developing heart disease.
Very low cholesterol is also not healthy as it is essential for healthy cell membranes, brain functioning, hormone production, and vitamin storage.
Lets get specific…Lipoproteins transport cholesterol through the blood to the cells. HDL is good because it carries extra cholesterol back to the liver where it can be eliminated. LDL is bad because it enables excess cholesterol to build up in the blood. Cholesterol becomes a problem when too much bad cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), is produced or ingested through unhealthy foods. Triglycerides are also a type of fat in the blood. These are different from cholesterol, but because of their strong association with heart disease, triglycerides are also measured.
A person with hyperlipidemia may have high levels of both LDL and triglycerides.
The good news is that a little knowledge (and exercise) goes a long way to helping us reduce our cholesterol levels and start a healthy Lifestyle! In our next blog we will address how your lifestyle and diet can improve your odds of dodging this diagnosis!