Cardiovascular Health: Life-Threatening Complications of High Levels of Cholesterol and How to Prevent Them

High cholesterol levels lead to the formation of plaques in the arteries, which in turn are involved in various cardiovascular diseases. Here you can see how to limit this phenomenon.

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Millions of Americans have levels of bad cholesterol that are too high. Cholesterol is a necessary lipid for the body and is composed of two proteins: high-density lipoproteins, known as HDL, and low-density lipoproteins, known as LDL. The former constitute the “good cholesterol” as it prevents the formation of plaques on artery walls, while the latter constitutes bad cholesterol. Unlike HDL, LDL promotes the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. Having high levels of bad cholesterol increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, but changing certain habits can reduce it.

Cholesterol levels are measured during a lipid assessment, which is done by testing a blood sample. This test is recommended from the age of 50 for men and 60 for women, and also before taking hormonal contraceptives.

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What are the possible complications?

There are eight main complications associated with high cholesterol. First, high blood pressure: Because of plaques on artery walls, blood flows less well and blood pressure becomes higher. But atherosclerotic plaques are also responsible for coronary artery disease and can lead to heart failure. Some people sometimes suffer from angina pectoris, which is also caused by plaques that reduce blood flow to the heart. These circulatory problems can lead to a heart attack. In some cases, atherosclerosis creates a sudden tear in the plaque in the artery, which then forms a blood clot that prevents blood from flowing. When this clot is found in a carotid artery, it can cause a stroke.

The formation of plaques in the arteries has consequences for the whole body and as a result, some people may have difficulty moving because of leg pain: this is called peripheral arterial disease and is caused by a lack of oxygen to the leg muscles. The kidneys are also among the organs affected by high cholesterol. Finally, too high a level of bad cholesterol is associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Several studies have shown that it may contribute to the early development of neurodegenerative diseases.

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How can these complications be prevented?

To counteract the effects of high cholesterol, cholesterol levels must be reduced. This is sometimes done by taking medication, but mostly by changing one’s lifestyle. Eating habits must be changed to reduce the intake of saturated fatty acids found in meat, butter, processed foods, etc. At the same time, the consumption of fruits and vegetables should be increased, as well as the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, which are mainly found in nuts and fatty fish. Physical activity and combating sedentary lifestyles are also part of the new habits that help reduce cholesterol levels.

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