Cholesterol is a needed substance that helps build healthy cells in our bodies, but when we have too much of it, it can cause severe health problems like a stroke or heart attack. In addition, when we have a large amount of cholesterol, or “bad cholesterol,” which is the low density lipoprotein ( LDL), it will build up in our blood vessels and eventually make it difficult for blood to flow through our arteries, which can result in a tingling sensation, numbness or feeling cold. High cholesterol can be genetic, but it’s usually caused by poor diet and lifestyle choices. Keeping your cholesterol level down is essential for staying healthy and Eat This, Not That! Health talked to medical experts who revealed how to determine if you have high cholesterol and what to do about it. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Dr. Parham Yashar, MD FACS FAANS Board Certified Neurosurgeon at Dignity Health Northridge Hospital says, “Checking your cholesterol is something that everybody should do. Especially starting at the age of 20, it’s good practice to check your cholesterol levels every five years if you have low risk for cardiovascular disease. However, for those with cardiovascular disease risk factors, more frequent than every Five years may be necessary especially if your cholesterol levels are rising.”
In addition to lifestyle choices such as a poor diet, a lack of exercise, smoking and excessive drinking, Dr. Yashar explains, “Risk factors include a family history of cardiac disease or high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, or a past history of having elevated cholesterol levels.”
According to Lindsey Desoto RDN, LD with The Dietitian Momma, “High cholesterol typically doesn’t have any noticeable symptoms. The only true way to tell is through a blood test or if you experience an emergency such as a heart attack or stroke.”
Dr. Ani Rostomyan, a Doctor of Pharmacy , Holistic Pharmacist and Functional Medicine Practitioner who specializes in Pharmacogenomics and Nutrigenomic consulting, agrees. “The majority of cases high cholesterol doesn’t cause significant signs and symptoms, rather living a lifestyle that is unhealthy and may predispose you to having high levels of cholesterol and putting you at risk for stroke or heart attack. Cholesterol plaques develop over time and narrow the arteries causing such events.”
Dr. Rostomyan says, “If you smoke, you are overweight, you have high blood pressure or diabetes, this could indicate you will have high cholesterol. Also early onset of coronary artery disease is a sign as well as cholesterol deposits under the skin which are called xanthomas, often occurring in tendons, or if you have a family member who had sudden premature cardiac death.”
DeSoto adds, “If your BMI is over 30, you are at risk of having elevated cholesterol levels. If you have a large waist circumference–for men, a waist circumference over 40 inches increases your risk for high cholesterol. For women, a waist circumference over 35 inches increases your risk. If you regularly eat a diet high in unhealthy fats like fried foods, pastries, and desserts you may have elevated cholesterol levels, and lack of physical activity contributes to high cholesterol. Without physical activity, it increases your risk for obesity which can increase your chances of developing high cholesterol. It’s recommended that most healthy adults get in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week.” In addition, Desoto explains, “Familial hypercholesterolemia is a condition that can be inherited from one or both of your parents. It occurs when your body cannot remove the low density lipoprotein (LDL) from the body, resulting in elevated cholesterol levels.”
There are several things we can do to help prevent high cholesterol. Dr. Rostomyan says, “the good news is there are many lifestyle modification tools you may adopt to prevent yourself from having high cholesterol and live a healthier, longer and functional life.
- Your Diet — eating too much saturated fat or trans fats is harmful and may increase the “bad” cholesterol levels. You can find saturated fats in red meat and whole milk dairy products. Trans fats are not allowed to be used in the food industry, per USDA, but often you can find them in packaged snacks or desserts.
- Keep your weight under control, BMI 30 is ideal to prevent the risk
- Exercise, at least 150 minutes weekly, aerobic exercise, improves your good cholesterol, HDL
- Quit Smoking. Tobacco lowers your level of HDL, the “good,” cholesterol.
- Drink in moderation, Alcohol. Too much alcohol can increase your total cholesterol level.
- Eat less refined sugar, sugar is pro-inflammatory and may contribute to cholesterol plaque build inside your blood vessels and cause early disease.
In general, eating less processed foods, eating more of the Mediterranean diet and less of the Standard American Diet, will prevent you greatly from having high cholesterol.
The Mediterranean diet includes lots of fresh fruits and veggies, healthy oils, seafood, nuts and seeds that are anti-inflammatory in their nature. Inflammatory foods are refined carbs, high sugar containing baked goods, white flour and sugar, unhealthy oils like canola oil, or fast food is extremely unhealthy and will put you at greater risk for diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease.”
“Age. Even amongst young children we may see elevated cholesterol, although it’s much more common in people over 40. With aging your liver becomes less able to remove LDL cholesterol, Dr. Rostomyan says.
Genetics, in some inherited situations, such Familial Hypercholesterolemia, due to your genetic makeup, your body will be unable to remove LDL cholesterol from your bloodstream or break it down in the liver. If you have family history, early screening is the best measure to start treatment and prevent cardiovascular events like stroke or heart attack.” And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.