Coronary heart disease is the main risk linked to high cholesterol. The cholesterol in your blood has a lot to do with your chances of developing heart disease. You’re at risk even if you’re young and otherwise healthy. Elevated cholesterol boosts the chances of developing certain other chronic conditions as well.
What’s the big deal with cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance your body needs small amounts of to function properly. If you have healthy lifestyle habits, like eating a heart-healthy diet and getting plenty of vigorous exercise, cholesterol usually isn’t an issue.
Every cell in your body needs cholesterol to function properly. Your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs for functions like making digestive liquids and producing hormones.
What happens when cholesterol is high?
In addition to the cholesterol your liver makes, your diet plays a major role in how much cholesterol circulates in your blood. Saturated fat from food is the single most likely contributor to an increase in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), a harmful form of cholesterol that when elevated raises the risk of heart disease.
When you eat a diet rich in saturated fat from fatty cuts of red meat, whole milk products, and the sort, your cholesterol can rise and remain elevated as long as you continue eating such foods. When you have too much saturated fat in your blood, it accumulates in your blood vessels and causes them to harden and narrow, a condition known as atherosclerosis.
Coronary artery disease
Atherosclerosis is the hallmark of coronary artery disease (CAD), a major factor in heart attack and stroke. CAD is the most common type of heart disease. Coronary arteries are special blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood and nutrients to your heart. Plaque from excess cholesterol decreases blood flow to and from the heart.
What’s more, the hardened cholesterol deposits can cause a blockage and stop blood flow completely, triggering a heart attack or stroke, depending on where the blockage is located. That’s why you need to keep your cholesterol within a healthy range.
Type 2 diabetes
Your heart isn’t the only consideration when it comes to keeping your cholesterol levels in check. Low levels of a type of good cholesterol known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL) are consistently linked to an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The exact reason remains unknown but we do know that keeping your HDL cholesterol within a healthy range and making sure bad forms of cholesterol are in check may lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
High blood pressure
High cholesterol puts a strain on your entire circulatory system. When too much cholesterol causes blood vessels to narrow, your blood pressure rises in an effort to pump enough blood throughout your body. Unfortunately, when your blood pressure remains elevated, it silently damages blood vessels over time, compounding the problem and increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Peripheral artery disease
The blood vessel damage from high cholesterol raises the risk of developing other circulatory issues, such as peripheral artery disease (PAD). In PAD, the arteries that supply blood to your legs, stomach, arms, and head become narrow. In most people, the legs are most affected.
People who have PAD tend to experience painful cramping and numbness in the legs as a result of reduced blood flow. Complications can arise when you get sores on your legs or feet that don’t heal. The risk of infection increases and you could face potentially serious health issues.
High cholesterol isn’t something to ignore. The only way to know your current cholesterol profile is to have your levels checked. Doing so can save your life.
Our providers at Westmed Family Healthcare can help you keep your heart healthy and lower your risk for chronic diseases. To learn more, call our Westminster, Colorado, clinic to request an appointment or book your request conveniently by clicking here or using the “Request Appointment” tab.