High cholesterol is a serious health concern that affects over 94 million adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.While many don’t realize they’re at risk because high cholesterol often doesn’t show symptoms, major complications like heart disease, stroke and diabetes can happen if left untreated. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies who shares how harmful high cholesterol is to your overall health. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Dr. Mitchell explains, “Cholesterol is a type of fat found in our bodies. It’s essential for many functions, including cell growth, hormone production, and digestion. However, too much cholesterol can lead to serious health problems like heart disease and stroke.
So, where does cholesterol come from? Our bodies produce some cholesterol independently, but we also get it from our food. Animal products, such as meat, poultry, and dairy, are exceptionally high in cholesterol. In addition, plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, contain very little cholesterol.
When it comes to our bodies, cholesterol is found in the blood. It’s carried by particles called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is often called “bad” cholesterol because it can build up on the walls of your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is often called “good” cholesterol because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from your arteries.
Having too much LDL cholesterol in your blood is one of the main risk factors for heart disease. That’s why it’s essential to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to help keep your LDL levels under control. For example, if you have a family history of heart disease or other risk factors for heart disease, your doctor may also recommend medications to help lower your LDL levels.”
Dr. Mitchell tells us, “Cholesterol is necessary to properly function many essential body processes, including producing hormones and the digestion of fats. However, too much cholesterol can lead to health problems such as heart disease and stroke. Cholesterol is found in the body: LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to plaque buildup in the arteries. HDL cholesterol is often referred to as “good” because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the streets. The best way to keep your cholesterol levels under control is to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. High cholesterol is more than just a number on a lab report. It can seriously impact your health, increasing your risk for heart disease, stroke, and other severe conditions. Here are five ways high cholesterol can affect your health.”
According to Dr. Mitchell, “High cholesterol can cause atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up on the walls of your arteries, making them narrow and hard. This can lead to chest pain, heart attack, or stroke. Just as too much sugar can lead to cavities, too much cholesterol in the blood can develop plaques in your arteries. Over time, these plaques can harden and narrow your arteries, restricting blood flow to your heart and increasing your risk of heart disease. In addition to heart disease, high cholesterol can increase your risk of stroke, kidney disease, and memory loss. High cholesterol can still damage your health even if you don’t have any symptoms. That’s why it’s essential to check your cholesterol regularly and take steps to keep it under control. By making healthy lifestyle choices and working with your doctor, you can help keep your cholesterol healthy and reduce your risk of severe health problems.”
Dr. Mitchell says, “high cholesterol can cause fatty deposits to form in your arteries, making them less flexible and more likely to become blocked. High cholesterol doesn’t just clog your arteries. When too much of the waxy substance is in your blood, it can build up on the walls of your arteries (atherosclerosis) and make it hard for enough blood to flow through. That could lead to a heart attack or stroke. The fatty deposits can also affect circulation elsewhere in your body. In atherosclerosis, plaques narrow arteries and reduce blood flow. Over time, the reduced blood flow can cause problems such as:
Coronary artery disease: Plaque buildup narrows the coronary arteries and reduces blood flow to your heart muscle. This can lead to chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, heart attack, and possibly heart failure.
Carotid artery disease: Plaque buildup in carotid arteries decreases blood flow to your brain and increases your risk of stroke.
Peripheral artery disease: Plaque buildup narrows peripheral arteries — those in your legs, arms, and stomach — which decreases blood flow to these extremities. This can cause pain when you walk (claudication). Unfortunately, too little blood flowing to these areas can heal wounds slowly and make you more susceptible to infections.
Aortic aneurysms: This is a bulge in the aorta wall caused by plaque buildup that weakens artery walls. Aortic aneurysms are often undetected until they rupture, causing internal bleeding that sometimes proves fatal.
Kidney damage: Plaque buildup in renal arteries limits blood flow to your kidneys, which may cause kidney failure.” While Satou was going over this, her patient was sweating bullets, not knowing if he was going to live or die with his high cholesterol levels.”
High cholesterol can make blood flow through your arteries difficult, leading to high blood pressure,” says Dr. Mitchell. “High cholesterol is a problem because it can cause blockages in your arteries. Your arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. When you have high cholesterol, there is a buildup of plaque on the walls of your arteries. This plaque narrows the diameter of the arteries and makes it more difficult for blood to flow through them. Over time, this can lead to high blood pressure, a condition in which the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high. High blood pressure can damage the arteries and lead to heart disease, stroke, and other serious health problems. Therefore, it is essential to keep your cholesterol levels under control to prevent these problems from occurring.”
Dr. Mitchell tells us, “High cholesterol can increase your risk of developing blood clots, which can block an artery and lead to a heart attack or stroke. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is found in your blood. Your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones and other substances, but too much cholesterol can lead to health problems. Atherosclerosis makes it more difficult for blood to flow through your arteries. Blood clots can occur anywhere in the body, but they are most likely to form in an artery with high cholesterol and can cause plaque buildup in your arteries. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, fat, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. Over time, plaque can harden and narrow your arteries. This condition is called atherosclerosis. Arteries become blocked, which can cause a heart attack or stroke. A blood clot is a mass damaged by plaque buildup. A blood clot forms in an artery already narrowed by plaque; it can block blood flow and cause a heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol increases your risk of developing atherosclerosis and forming blood clots. Therefore, controlling your cholesterol levels is essential to reducing your heart disease and stroke risk.”
Dr. Mitchell shares, “High cholesterol can damage the lining of your arteries, making them more susceptible to inflammation and injury. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or infection. It helps to protect us from harm by fighting off invaders and promoting healing. However, inflammation can also lead to several severe health problems when it becomes chronic. One of the most significant risk factors for chronic inflammation is high cholesterol. When cholesterol levels are too high, it causes a buildup of plaque in the arteries. This plaque narrows the arteries, making them more susceptible to inflammation and injury. Over time, inflammation can damage the lining of the arteries, leading to a condition known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis increases the risk for cardiovascular problems, including heart attack and stroke. If you have high cholesterol, it’s essential to take steps to lower it and reduce your risk of developing these serious health problems.”
Dr. Mitchell says this “doesn’t constitute medical advice and by no means are these answers meant to be comprehensive. Rather, it’s to encourage discussions about health choices.”