Heart disease is a leading cause of death worldwide. Various factors, such as stress, underlying medical conditions, and a sedentary lifestyle, make an individual more vulnerable to heart disease. One of the most significant risk factors for heart disease is high cholesterol.
High cholesterol levels are linked to a wide array of cardiovascular ailments, including coronary artery disease, peripheral arterial disease, heart valve disease, and heart failure. In this article, we will discuss what cholesterol is, how it is linked to heart disease symptoms, where it comes from, and tips for lowering cholesterol levels. Let’s get started.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the fats (lipids) in your blood. It is produced by your liver and can also be found in certain foods. There are two main types of cholesterol: LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein).
LDL is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol because it can build up in the walls of your arteries, leading to a condition called atherosclerosis. This buildup can narrow the arteries and make it harder for blood to flow through, exacerbating any existing heart disease symptoms and increasing the risk of heart failure.
HDL, on the other hand, is often referred to as “good” cholesterol because it helps remove LDL from the bloodstream. Ideally, you should have high HDL levels and low LDL levels in your blood.
Cholesterol is found in animal-based products such as meat, dairy, and eggs. Foods high in saturated and trans fats can also raise cholesterol levels. These include fried foods, processed snacks, and baked goods. Plant-based foods, such as coconut and palm oil, also contain saturated fats.
How Does Cholesterol Affect Your Heart?
When cholesterol levels are high, LDL cholesterol can build up in the walls of the arteries, resulting in atherosclerosis. This buildup of plaque can cause the arteries to narrow, making it harder for blood to flow through. It is particularly concerning in the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart and can lead to coronary artery disease.
When blood flow to the heart is restricted, it can lead to chest pain, also known as angina, and if the blood flow is blocked completely, it can cause a heart attack. In such cases, a patient often has to undergo coronary angioplasty to open up the blocked arteries and restore normal blood flow.
In addition to the coronary arteries, high cholesterol levels can also affect other arteries in the body. Atherosclerosis in the carotid arteries, which supply blood to the brain, can increase the risk of stroke. Similarly, when the arteries in the legs become narrowed, it can cause peripheral arterial disease, which can lead to pain in the legs and difficulties with walking.
High cholesterol levels can also affect the heart in other ways. For example, it can lead to heart failure, a condition where the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. High cholesterol levels can also cause the heart valves to become narrowed, leading to a heart valve disease known as stenosis.
Tips to Lower Cholesterol Levels
If you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, it is a good idea to consult a heart disease specialist to assess your overall health and minimize the risk of heart disease. They will likely recommend medications called statins to keep your cholesterol levels in check.
Additionally, you can take several steps to lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. These include:
- Eating a healthy diet that is low in saturated and trans fats
- Exercising regularly
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting alcohol consumption
Cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease. It is crucial to understand how cholesterol affects your heart and take steps to lower your cholesterol levels. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health. It is just as essential to consult a heart specialist to keep an eye on your cardiovascular health and take the medications they prescribe.
Dr. C Raghu is one of the best cardiologists in India. He specializes in interventional cardiology and has helped countless patients recover from severe heart ailments. If you are looking to consult a cardiologist in Hyderabad, feel free to book an appointment with Dr. Raghu today.