When we hear the word ‘Cholesterol’, there are usually negative connotations attached.
It’s associated with health complications like gallstones, heart diseases, stroke, angina, high blood pressure, peripheral vascular disease, or chronic kidney disease.
Cholesterol is a type of lipid, a wavy kind of substance created by your liver. It travels through your bloodstream to help your body create new cells. So, cholesterol is not all bad. It is an essential part of your well-being.
There are three types of cholesterol we need to familiarise ourselves with and they are:
Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)
Triglycerides (used as a source of energy)
LDL is branded the bad cholesterol brother because it can build up inside your arteries and cause them to narrow, leading to heart diseases and stroke. On the other hand, HDL, the good cholesterol, carries LDL away from your arteries and back to the liver where it is processed by your body and broken down.
While it is true that an undetected or untreated high level of bad cholesterol can lead to more serious health problems or even early death, proper understanding and management are easier than you think! You can read more about high cholesterol and how it affects our bodies here.
In the meantime, let’s clear the air about some myths and facts related to cholesterol.
All kinds of cholesterol are bad for you.
There’s little or nothing you can do about high cholesterol levels, especially if it is an inherited condition.
I will know if my cholesterol level is at a dangerous level. I don’t need a test to tell me.
A good, healthy diet and regular exercise are enough to keep my cholesterol levels in check. My cholesterol can improve without medicine.
Only older people need to get their cholesterol levels checked. Younger people are at no risk whatsoever.
I am not overweight which means my cholesterol level is fine.
Taking medication for high cholesterol means there’s no need for a lifestyle change.
I am a woman and I don’t need to worry about high cholesterol
Not all cholesterol is bad because our bodies need some types of cholesterol to function optimally. In the nutshell, we want less LDL and more HDL.
There’s a lot we can do about consciously controlling our cholesterol level. For one, we need to get tested, if possible, at least once every 5 years. As long as we eat healthily, limit consumption of food high in saturated fats, consume food high in fibre, stay active, quit smoking and drinking, talk to our healthcare provider consistently about our cholesterol levels, and know our family history, we're on the right path.
There are almost no signs or symptoms when people are suffering from high cholesterol levels. You might only find out too late. A study found that people who suffered from high cholesterol could also experience joint inflammation, which is not a conventional link to the condition.
While a change of lifestyle is sometimes enough for some, it may not be the same for others especially when the Doctor deems medication necessary or urgent.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends checking our cholesterol levels at various points of our lives. Once between the age of 9 and 11, once between ages 17 and 21, and once every 5 years for those age 20 and older.
Just about anybody can have high cholesterol although being overweight increases the chances. The fact is being thin does not automatically safeguard you from having high cholesterol.
Medication is no panacea for high cholesterol. Although it is important to take medication prescribed by your healthcare provider, engaging in regular exercise, enjoying a balanced diet, and going for routine health checks are still musts for those who wish to keep their cholesterol levels under control.
High cholesterol is a condition that affects both genders equally. Heart disease, which is linked to high cholesterol, is the number one cause of death among women. Women’s cholesterol levels are also affected by pregnancy, breastfeeding, hormonal changes, and menopause.
A sure-fire way to have peace of mind is to get the advice of your doctor after a cholesterol test is done. Take the guessing out of it because physical signs and symptoms of high cholesterol are oftentimes elusive, anyway.
If your doctor tells you that you’re suffering from high cholesterol, do what’s best for yourself. Don't compare your health and lifestyle to others because your doctor does know best.
Your body produces cholesterol to function properly and it responds to what you consume daily, your lifestyle, and the medication you are on.
Your daily diet is one of the biggest contributors to your cholesterol level. If there is high consumption of food such as processed foods, palm/kernel/coconut oil, which contains high levels of ‘bad cholesterol', fried food, or dessert, you can expect your cholesterol level to reflect as such.
High cholesterol is also a condition that is passed on from parents to children and it is called familial hypercholesterolemia.
This includes having a body mass index of 30 or greater, living a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and drinking. Regular exercise helps boost the level of HDL levels in your body while smoking causes gradual damage to the walls of your blood vessels.
Our bodies change as we age and everyone's different. Unfortunately, it could also possibly mean our livers become less efficient in removing LDL cholesterol. This is particularly true for women after menopause.
Everyone responds to stress differently and it is important to note our limits and how seriously they can affect our cholesterol levels. Those who experience high levels of stress at work stand a greater chance of developing complications with cholesterol, in part because of the production of hormones called cortisol and adrenaline when we’re stressed.
Apart from noting our personal lifestyle choices that may contribute to high levels of cholesterol in our bloodstream, we also need to go through regular cholesterol tests and screenings to have a better overall understanding of the fats in our blood.
You’ll need to identify your risk for heart diseases based on the results of your doctor’s screenings and this can be easily seen in a full lipid profile.
Based on the results of your cholesterol tests, your healthcare provider may look at triglycerides, another form of fat found in our bloodstream. The reason is that high levels of triglyceride could be a result of health conditions like diabetes, hypothyroidism, kidney disease, or liver disease. High consumption of alcohol and food containing high levels of cholesterol, saturated and trans fat could also contribute towards high triglyceride levels.
The wonderful thing about the suite of services offered by Speedoc is that you can get your health screening done easily, affordably, and comfortably on-site or at home!
When you know the real condition of your health, you’re in a better position to deal with any underlying condition as early as possible. With early interception, you reduce the risk of complications and the development of chronic conditions that may hamper the quality of your life.
Most doctors recommend going for a health screening at least once every 5 years when you’re over the age of 21 and once a year if you’re over the age of 30.
As you transition from one stage of your life to another, your health condition changes. With these regular health screenings, you’ll have a headstart on the onset of controllable conditions like high cholesterol level.
We also offer affordable packages for chronic disease management like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and thyroid disorder.