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Do You Have High Cholesterol? Symptoms That Suggest You Might…

Cholesterol is one of many essential substances found in the body. This waxy, fat-like lipoprotein exists as HDL and LDL in the blood and serves many important roles like making hormones, synthesizing vitamin D, and digesting food.

Despite its productive role in the body, cholesterol becomes dangerous when it accumulates to high levels. This definitive guide to high cholesterol will help you understand high cholesterol symptoms, how they impact your health, how to test your cholesterol levels, and how you can prevent high cholesterol in the future.

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Cholesterol’s Role in the Body

Cholesterol enters the body from your liver and your diet. About 75% of cholesterol originates from the liver, while the other 25% is produced from the foods you eat. The body is designed to decrease its cholesterol production if too much cholesterol is consumed from foods, though this natural balancing act doesn’t always work.

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat, which means it cannot travel through the bloodstream alone. In order to fulfill its responsibility as an essential building block in cell membranes, cholesterol binds with other protein-covered substances. These tiny particles move easily through the bloodstream in a few different forms:

  • high-density lipoprotein (HDL)
  • low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
  • very-low-density protein (VDL)

You may know these better as the “good” cholesterol and the “bad” cholesterols.

HDL is nicknamed the “good” cholesterol because it removes cholesterol from the bloodstream and artery walls and transports it back to the liver, where a natural filtration system eliminates cholesterol from the body.

LDL cholesterol, on the other hand, is notorious for being the “bad cholesterol”. It triggers the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Too much plaque leads to conditions like angina, heart attack, and stroke.

The Benefits of Cholesterol

In healthy amounts, cholesterol plays the following essential roles in the body:

  • Helps produce sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone
  • Helps produce cortisol, the stress hormone
  • Helps produce vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium
  • Exists in bile to digest foods
  • Supports healthy membranes surrounding cells

Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol can be measured as a total amount or specifically as HDL or LDL. It is important to know and understand the meaning of your cholesterol levels in order to preserve cardiovascular health and prevent future complications.

Cholesterol Levels For Adults

Cholesterol levels vary by age, gender, and cholesterol type. Overall, experts recommend the following cholesterol level guidelines.

Type of CholesterolIdealBorderlineDangerous
Total<200 mg/dL200 mg/dL – 239 mg/dL>240 mg/dL
LDL<100 mg/dL130 mg/dL – 159 mg/dL>160 mg/dL
HDL>60 mg/dL41 mg/dL – 59 mg/dL<40 mg/dL

Cholesterol Levels For Children

It is harder to test for cholesterol content in children. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends one cholesterol screening between the age of 9 and 11, and another screening between the ages of 17 and 21. Any testing done between 12 and 16 is too likely to deliver a false-negative result.

Type of CholesterolIdealBorderlineDangerous
Total<170 mg/dL170 mg/dL – 199 mg/dL>200 mg/dL
LDL<100 mg/dL110 mg/dL – 129 mg/dL>130 mg/dL
HDL>60 mg/dL41 mg/dL – 59 mg/dL<40 mg/dL

Do You Have High Cholesterol?

It’s true that cholesterol plays many important roles in the body, but symptoms like high LDL and total cholesterol levels place you at higher risk of serious health complications. Your high cholesterol symptoms can be an inherited condition or a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices like eating fatty foods, smoking, and not exercising.

High cholesterol causes fatty deposits called plaque in the blood vessels. Blood vessels like arteries are meant to help oxygenated blood flow through the body, and the plaque caused by high cholesterol makes it difficult for blood to flow.

Signs You Have High Cholesterol Symptoms

There are no obvious high cholesterol symptoms. It is known as the “silent killer” because high cholesterol can accumulate in the body without sending any warnings until a heart attack of stroke occurs.

  • Poor diet including too much saturated fat, trans fat, red meat, and processed foods
  • Obesity with a BMI over 30
  • Little to no exercise
  • Smoking
  • High blood sugar and diabetes
  • Family history

Instead, the likelihood of high cholesterol can be identified by evaluating lifestyle choices:

High Cholesterol Complications

The development of plaque in the arteries as a result of high cholesterol is known as atherosclerosis. This is a dangerous condition that causes complications due to reduced blood flow:

  • Chest pain called angina
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease

How to Test Your Cholesterol Levels

Even without obvious high cholesterol symptoms there is good news. Cholesterol can be easily tested with a blood test called a lipid panel. Since high cholesterol doesn’t show clear symptoms, only a cholesterol test can determine your levels. A lipid panel tests the blood to report on four factors:

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL cholesterol
  • HDL cholesterol
  • Triglycerides

A cholesterol test is very simple. It is best to schedule your blood test for the early morning since you need to fast for 12 hours prior to your lipid panel. A sample of your blood is obtained and evaluated to identify your different cholesterol levels.

The American Heart Association recommends that all adults have their cholesterol checked every four to six years as a preventative measure.

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Ways to Naturally Decrease Your Cholesterol Levels

Adjust Your Diet to Increase HDL Cholesterol

There are many medications available to lower cholesterol, but it’s actually possible to restore healthy cholesterol levels using natural techniques and lifestyle changes.

Adjust Your Diet to Lower LDL Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol can be reduced simply by removing certain unhealthy food choices from your daily eating habits. Try to limit your intake of the following high-cholesterol items:

  • Trans fats often found in fast foods, cookies, and crackers
  • Egg yolks and whole milk products
  • Red meat and processed meats

Fixing your high cholesterol isn’t just about lowering your LDL levels. It is also about boosting your “good” HDL cholesterol levels. Since HDL acts like a vacuum cleaner for bad cholesterol in the body, raising your HDL levels actually helps lower your total cholesterol and reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.

Incorporate these foods into your diet to encourage higher HDL levels:

  • Olive oil
  • Beans
  • High-fiber fruit
  • Fatty fish
  • Seed and nuts
  • Avocado

Exercise More, Smoke Less

It’s no secret that exercising more and quitting smoking will improve your health, and your cholesterol levels. There are no exception to that rule even without clear symptoms. Incorporate extra movement into your day by taking the stairs, walking for 15 minutes, and other small steps. Build your endurance until you can exercise for 60 minutes at least 3 times a week.

The Bottom Line

Some aspects of your health may be out of your control, but your cholesterol isn’t one of them! Even without clear high cholesterol symptoms by taking the right steps to test your cholesterol and adopt healthier lifestyle habits, you can keep your cholesterol under control and enjoy a longer, more rewarding life.

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