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Health is one of the most fragile elements in human life which depends on many factors. Heart diseases and high cholesterol levels are the most common health problems which result from an imbalanced diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, or genetic predisposition. In every case, a high level of cholesterol causes significant health damage leading to cardiovascular diseases. Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that cholesterol is an essential part of the human body as it nourishes and builds cells. It is necessary to learn about cholesterol in order to understand its role in the human body and impact on the development of heart diseases. Cholesterol helps to maintain the normal functioning of the human body; however, its excess may cause great harm Therefore, it is necessary to regularly check the level of cholesterol to avoid different diseases.
Cholesterol as a Chemical Substance
Cholesterol is defined as a steroid alcohol which is present in both human and animal cells, regulating different metabolic pathways (Berger, Raman, Vishwanathan, Jacques, & Johnson, 2015). Biological studies differentiate bad cholesterol and good cholesterol. In addition to cholesterol received from food, the human body produces its own cholesterol. The total number of cholesterol in the human body includes the number of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and triglycerides (Berger et al., 2015). LDL is considered to be bad cholesterol, while HDL is good cholesterol. Lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout the body to satisfy its needs and help it to perform its functions (Scholl, 2012). Patients suffering from high cholesterol levels regularly undergo LDL cholesterol tests. The high LDL cholesterol level increases the risk of heart attack. However, LDL is not the only indicator showing the possible risk of heart attack in the next 10 years. Age, blood pressure, and bad habits are also taken into account during the estimation of the negative influence of high LDL levels on the human body.
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As it has already been mentioned, HDL is also called good cholesterol because it helps to reduce LDL (Berger et al., 2015). It transports LDL to the liver in order to recycle it and let the human body use only good cholesterol to nourish organs. HDL is a supportive element of the inner walls of blood vessels. It keeps the walls solid and protects them from damage. If the walls of blood vessels start to ruin, the patient may face a heart attack because of atherosclerosis. HDL prevents the damage by scrubbing the surface of blood vessels and keeping them healthy.
Triglycerides are a type of lipids found in the human blood which store excessive energy coming from food. The main difference between cholesterol and triglycerides is that cholesterol contributes to the building of cells and production of hormones, while triglycerides contain and store excessive energy. The high level of triglycerides increases the risk of the development of atherosclerosis (Kelley, 2014). Physical inactivity, obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and a diet with a huge amount of carbohydrates lead to the development of elevated triglycerides. Moreover, a genetic predisposition to the high level of triglycerides is a common problem that may be passed from one generation to another (Wadhera, Steen, Khan, Giugliano, & Foody, 2016). For example, in my family, my father suffers from a high level of triglycerides, which also became my health problem. Probably, my children will have high levels of triglycerides as well. Genes are the natural reminders of family bonds.
Cholesterols Impact on the Human Body
Regardless of different functions of HDL, LDL, and triglycerides, the excessive level of total cholesterol is a warning sign to take immediate action. High cholesterol levels negatively influence the human body and its organs. The human body functions in an appropriate manner due to the normal level of cholesterol which is produced by the liver and transported to other organs and body cells. When individuals consume animal fats, they get less than 25 percent of the total amount of cholesterol (Kelley, 2014). The majority of people do not have any signs of high cholesterol levels until they undergo a blood test at the hospital.
Cholesterol moves from the liver to other cells and organs through the bloodstream. If the human body does not have enough HDL, it is most likely that excessive LDL will lead to the development of plaque, excessive fat, and a hardened mixture of cholesterol (Scholl, 2012). As a result, coronary arteries become narrower, and it is more difficult for blood to move throughout the body to the heart. An area of plaque can break and lead to a blood clot that will block the movement of blood. Chest discomfort, pain, and high blood pressure indicate that there are problems with the bloodstream caused by cholesterol (Berger et al., 2015). A heart attack happens when one of the heart muscles does not receive blood. If there is no restoration of the blood flow, the muscle dies, which may lead to the patients death. It is obvious that the circulatory system is one of the major areas of the negative impact of high cholesterol levels. However, it is possible to see the problem from another point of view.
High cholesterol levels are the main cause of gallstones that begin to appear because of a bile imbalance. The digestive system also suffers from the excessive amount of cholesterol. As soon as there is plaque in the arteries, there is a risk of the blockage of the blood flow to the stomach or kidneys (Wadhera et al., 2016). A blockage of the blood flow to the bowel or intestines leads to the intestinal ischemic syndrome. Abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, and bloody stools are the widespread symptoms of the negative influence of high cholesterol on the digestive system.
Cholesterol and Heart Diseases
Cardiovascular diseases (CDV) have a direct connection to the level of cholesterol in the human body. Since every process in the human organism relates to the bonds between different chemical elements, cholesterol plays a significant role in the determination of CDV-related risks. In fact, the primary causes of CDV are associated with an unhealthy diet which includes an excessive amount of fats and carbohydrates (Scholl, 2012). Imbalanced eating is the cause of obesity that has a connection to the obstruction of blood vessels by fats and cholesterol substances. The development of the excessive amount of cholesterol occurs not only due to imbalanced eating. Smoking and an inactive lifestyle also increase cholesterol in the body. All these factors influence the oxygenation of heart muscles which naturally occurs through the bloodstream. If the bloodstream is full of garbage, the heart will not receive enough oxygen (Kelley, 2014). As a result, the risks of CDV become higher. Bad habits, like tobacco smoking, also lead to the destruction of the walls of blood vessels. In complex correlation with cholesterol, tobacco smoking increases the risk of CDV development.
Cholesterol plays a major role in keeping blood vessels and heart muscles healthy. If there are genetic predispositions to high cholesterol, it is necessary to immediately take care of health. Otherwise, asymptomatic health conditions associated with high cholesterol will lead to the development of heart diseases. In order to be informed about the risks related to the development of heart diseases, it is important to undergo a blood test called a lipid profile (Kelley, 2014). It can show a total amount of cholesterol and its individual components, including triglycerides. Nevertheless, every case is patient-specific, which means that a healthcare professional identifies the need to lower cholesterol levels according to the overall profile of the patient, including his/her age, lifestyle, and habits (Wadhera et al., 2016). It is worth considering the common symptoms of high cholesterol in order to know when it is necessary to visit the hospital as soon as possible.
Symptoms of High Cholesterol and Heart Diseases
High blood pressure, obesity, and smoking are the primary risk factors for high cholesterol. If an individual has all these three risk factors, he/she should check the level of cholesterol at the hospital. Unfortunately, a blood test is the only test used to measure cholesterol levels that can show the need to pay more attention to health. Nevertheless, genetic predispositions to high cholesterol have some symptoms. Familial hypercholesterolemia is a condition passed through genes from one generation to another. The main symptom of this disease is the appearance of xanthomas that look like yellow patches on the skin (Berger et al., 2015). This symptom may indicate the genetic nature of high cholesterol. In other cases, high cholesterol does not have any symptoms. Since the symptoms of high cholesterol levels can hardly have any influence on the human body, it is worth considering the symptoms of heart diseases related to high cholesterol.
Coronary artery disease has different symptoms for males and females. In the United States, this disease is the major cause of deaths among both sexes (Kelley, 2014). The main symptoms of coronary artery disease include chest pain, fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, pain in different body parts, and numbness in extremities. The condition develops not only because of high cholesterol but also because of other factors related to the patients lifestyle.
As long as cholesterol contributes to the buildup of plaque preventing appropriate blood supply to one of the heart muscles and brain, the risk of stroke rises. The blockage of the artery leads to the lack of oxygen, which means that a stroke can happen in the heart or in the brain (Wadhera et al., 2016). In both cases, a stroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate hospitalization in order to save the patients life. Among the main symptoms of stroke are sudden dizziness, loss of coordination and balance, facial asymmetry, confusion, numbness in body parts, sudden headache, and slurring words. If a person experiences all these symptoms, it is necessary to take him/her to the hospital.
A heart attack is another disease associated with cholesterol. It happens when a blood clot in the blood vessel prevents the delivery of oxygen to the heart. This disease results from atherosclerosis that has no symptoms and develops slowly. There are several symptoms of heart attack that include pain in the chest or other body parts, dizziness, difficult breathing, nausea, heartburn, and anxiety (Kelley, 2014). All in all, a heart attack is a serious health problem which requires immediate medical help.
The treatment should be prescribed by the doctor according to the results of blood tests specifying the amount of cholesterol in the body. As a rule, several drugs are used to treat diseases related to high cholesterol. Statins are the first drugs the patient should take in order to lower cholesterol. These drugs mildly raise HDL that fight against the excessive amount of LDL and triglycerides in the blood. Statins are effective in preventing heart attacks by cleaning up blood vessels and helping the human body to reduce LDL (Wadhera et al., 2016). Nevertheless, statins may have significant side effects; therefore, a patient should undergo regular checkups at the hospital. There are also some interactions between statins and other drugs, which means that healthcare professionals help is necessary. Sometimes, statins lead to muscle inflammation and liver damage. In this case, an individual should inform a doctor about these side effects to receive medical care.
Niacin is a B-vitamin which is mostly found in food (Scholl, 2012). However, high cholesterol levels may require the prescription of high doses of this vitamin. When niacin gets into the body, it reduces LDL and raises HDL. Doctors use it as a supplement to reduce the risk of the development of CDV. It is also necessary to lower high levels of triglycerides by taking fibrates. These drugs have a direct influence on the reduction of fats produced by the human body.
Finally, it is worth considering not only drugs but also changes in a lifestyle. It is easier to reduce the amount of cholesterol in the human body by changing a lifestyle, including activity, habits, and a diet. It is essential to engage in routine physical activity that will boost metabolism and reduce fats (Scholl, 2012). High cholesterol levels also require the avoidance of smoking and alcohol consumption that only worsen the situation by decreasing oxygen in the blood. Furthermore, a patient should have a new diet that includes appropriate proportions of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. In addition, it is necessary to replace junk food with fruits, vegetables, and healthy snacks. All these options guarantee a mild reduction of cholesterol levels without negative health consequences.
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Cholesterol is a chemical substance that can be both produced by the human body and obtained from food sources. It performs some vital functions, but an excessive amount of LDL cholesterol may block blood vessels and lead to the development of various cardiovascular diseases. There are no symptoms of high cholesterol, which means that only a blood test and precise examination at the hospital can detect the problem. However, there are symptoms of the most common heart diseases caused by high cholesterol. Therefore, a person should immediately consult a doctor whenever he/she experiences these symptoms. In general, a healthy lifestyle and diet are one of the main elements in the treatment plan that help every patient to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood.