What is high cholesterol?Cholesterol is one of the many lipids the human body forms. To some extent, the cholesterol level in the blood depends on what we eat, but it is mainly dependent on how the body produces cholesterol in the liver. Too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to the hardening and narrowing of the arteries in the major blood vessel systems also called atherosclerosis.
There are two types of cholesterol, a good one called HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and a bad one called LDL (low density lipoprotein). It is the proportion of LDL to HDL that influences the degree to which atherosclerosis is likely to cause cardiovascular diseases. Cholesterol levels rise slightly with age, and women generally have a higher HDL cholesterol level than men.
What causes high cholesterol?You can´t feel whether you have high cholesterol or not but high level cholesterol combined with other risk factors, such as smoking, unhealthy diet, alcohol, lack of exercise and obesity can lead to atherosclerosis and symptoms of cardiovascular disease. High cholesterol can also be hereditary, called familial hypercholesterolemia.
Atherosclerosis is caused by cholesterol and fat accumulation in the artery walls. The artery become narrow and hardened, their elasticity disappears and it becomes difficult for the blood to flow through. These fatty accumulations, called plaques, can rupture, causing blood to clot around the rupture, which might reduce blood flow through the artery. If the blood can´t flow to a part of the body, the tissue is injured.
Symptoms of cardiovascular disease can be: pain in legs when walking or running, angina (chest pain), irregular heartbeats and shortness of breath.
The guidelines concerning the ideal cholesterol levels differs slightly between the US and Canada and Europe.
The levels of total cholesterol fall into following categories:
- Ideal level: Less than 5.2 mmol/L or 200 mg/dL
- Borderline high: Between 5.2 to 6.2 mmol/L or 200-239 mg/dL
- High: Above 6.2 mmol/L or 240 mg/dL or above
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