Cholesterol is made up of fatty substances that are produced by the liver, and it can come in the forms of both “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol. The “good” cholesterol is made up of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and it actually collects unnecessary cholesterol to try to remove it from the blood vessels. However, the “bad” cholesterol, also known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL), sticks to the linings of the blood vessels, causing a myriad of health problems, including heart-related diseases and other serious conditions. Cholesterol can also be determined by factors like age, hereditary disease, what foods a person generally eats and how much they exercise. Let’s take a look at the ways high cholesterol can adversely affect your health.
When a person has high cholesterol, obesity is a condition that can be caused by these high levels of LDH that are residing in the body. Along with small or no amounts of exercise and a diet high in saturated fats, people with high cholesterol may also experience severe weight gain. When a person’s body mass is 30 or higher, physicians will typically place them in a high-risk category for having high cholesterol. Risk factors also increase with the size of the waist, with a male’s set at 40 inches and a female’s at 35 inches in total circumference.
Atherosclerosis is a disease that affects the arteries with plaque buildup consisting of fatty substances along the arterial walls, which is an effect of high cholesterol. When a person has this condition, the arteries will begin to harden and narrow, making the normal flow of the blood difficult. This plaque can continue to build up until it creates bumps along the walls of the arteries, often creating severe blockages. This disease can adversely affect any of the arteries in the body, but it is seen most often in the heart, brain, arms, legs and kidneys. Atherosclerosis can eventually lead to heart attacks and strokes, along with death in severe cases.
Peripheral Artery Disease can be caused when the arteries in the legs are affected by the narrowing and hardening of the arteries, as a direct result of high cholesterol. Due to this restriction of the arteries in the legs, the muscles do not get the necessary amount of blood and oxygen needed to allow normal functionality. Those suffering from Peripheral Artery Disease may experience very intense pain when walking, even for short distances, and are typically incapable of running. Other symptoms may also include nerve injuries and wounds that take a long time to heal completely.
When a fatty plaque begins to build up in the arteries due to the level of low-density lipoprotein, this plaque can often tear or rip apart. When this occurs, a blood clot can form within the artery. The blood flow to the heart can then be blocked by this clot, keeping much-needed oxygen from reaching the heart. When an area of the heart does not receive the proper amount of oxygen through the blood, its cells can become damaged. A heart attack can occur when the blood flow is restricted, resulting in severe injury to the heart and even death.
Coronary Heart Disease can occur when plaque builds up along the walls of the coronary arteries. This LDL build-up along the arteries of the heart can restrict the blood flow to the heart, also reducing the oxygen that reaches the organ. This can result in chest pains, also known as angina, as well as shortness of breath. This pain can also appear in the neck, jaw, shoulders, arms and the back. It can often be confused with indigestion. In time, the lack of blood flow to the heart can weaken it, resulting in a heart attack or heart failure, along with irregular heartbeats.
Cerebrovascular Disease adversely affects and restricts the flow of oxygen-filled blood to the brain, resulting in a limited flow of the blood or a complete stop altogether. This condition can be brought on by the narrowing and the hardening of these arteries, due to a high level of cholesterol, causing a buildup of hard plaque along the arterial walls. This type of blockage can cause a stroke, transient ischemic attacks and even forms of dementia. Cerebrovascular Disease mostly affects those who are elderly or suffer from diabetes, ischemic heart disease or who currently smoke or have smoked in the past.
Stroke is often caused by Cerebrovascular Disease, where the arteries are restricted due to the buildup of plaque caused by harmful cholesterol. Strokes are most often caused when the arteries to the brain are blocked or even rupture. When you think that you or someone else might be having a stroke, signs to look for include numbness or weakness in the face, arms and legs, along with difficulty speaking or walking. Very severe symptoms can include complete paralysis along one side of the body, the loss of vision in one eye and absolute speech loss. A stroke can also cause permanent damage to the brain.
When plaque forms in the arteries due to high cholesterol, another risk to take into effect is diabetes. When a person suffers from diabetes, they are at a much greater risk of eventually experiencing some form of cardiovascular disease, which can also be caused directly by high cholesterol and the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Even when blood sugar levels are good, diabetes can also raise the “bad” cholesterol levels, while lowering the “good”, which is known as diabetic dyslipidemia. These high groupings of low-density lipoprotein in the arteries can also negatively interact with the body’s insulin levels, triggering diabetic attacks.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is also often linked with having high cholesterol. When the arteries have a buildup of plaque, they become hardened and narrow, making it difficult for the blood to reach the heart. When this happens, the heart has to try much harder to pump the blood, which creates a strain and raises the pressure of the blood. Due to this strain, it also puts the individual at a much greater risk of experiencing a heart attack or a stroke. High blood pressure does not generally produce a lot of symptoms, so it is a good idea to have it checked on a regular basis.
While smoking is not exactly caused by having high cholesterol, the two do seem to go hand in hand with their contributions to the buildup in plaque in the arteries, making it difficult for oxygen and blood to reach the heart. It can also lower the “good” cholesterol in the body, allowing the “bad” cholesterol free reign with its damage. Smoking can, of course, also lead to heart disease, which is also triggered by levels of high cholesterol. It can also assist in forming blood clots, which is yet another one of the body’s adverse reactions to fighting high cholesterol.
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