During the last festive period, a woman in her middle age developed partial stroke and was admitted in the hospital. She recovered fully but the family felt that the problem might not be stroke since the woman?s blood pressure had never been high and her blood sugar level had always been within the normal range, meaning she was not hypertensive or diabetic.
Her blood sample, which was sent to the lab for investigations, showed elevated blood cholesterol, a condition called hypercholesterolemia. It was later found that high cholesterol was responsible for the first stroke she suffered.
Hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol, occurs when there is too much cholesterol in the body. Cholesterol is a soft, waxy, fat-like substance that is a natural component of all the cells in the body. The body makes all the cholesterol it needs. However, added cholesterol, which comes from the foods eaten, may cause harm.
High cholesterol raises the risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. When there is too much cholesterol circulating in the blood, it can create sticky deposits (called plaque) along the artery walls. Plaque can eventually narrow or block the flow of blood to the brain, heart, and other organs. Blood cells that get caught on the plaque form clots, which can break loose and completely block blood flow through an artery, causing heart attack or stroke.
While heredity may be a factor for some people, the main culprits are lack of exercise and diets high in saturated fat. High cholesterol can be prevented, sometimes with lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) alone. If these do not work, your doctor may recommend medications to lower your cholesterol levels.
Signs and symptoms
In the early stages, there are usually no symptoms of high cholesterol. The only way to tell if the cholesterol is high is through a blood test.
In some cases, high cholesterol levels may be inherited; the liver may make too much cholesterol, or the body may not remove bad cholesterol from the blood efficiently. High cholesterol and elevated triglycerides can also be associated with other diseases, such as diabetes. But often, high cholesterol is caused by eating foods high in saturated fat and not getting enough exercise. High cholesterol is more common in people who are overweight or obese.
Risk factors: Being overweight or obese, eating a diet high in saturated fat and trans fatty acids (found in processed and fried foods); not getting enough exercise; family history of heart disease; high blood pressure; smoking; and diabetes.
Diagnosis: Most people do not have any symptoms of high cholesterol. A blood test is the only way to check levels of cholesterol in the blood. If the levels are above 200 mg/dL, the doctor will do a fasting lipid profile, a test performed after you abstain from food for nine to 12 hours.
A lipid test generally determines four distinct numbers: total cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglycerides. The LDL or low-density lipoprotein and the HDL or high-density lipoprotein are the two fundamental ?cholesterol types?. The LDL is known to be negative (bad) when in excess. Therefore, minimising it will be much better. HDL, known to be the positive (good), is better when elevated. In addition, the lipid profile appraises the triglycerides (whole fat in a person?s body). They have an impact on the health in the same manner cholesterol does. At last, the total cholesterol (sum of HDL, LDL and 20 per cent of triglycerides) is integrated as well in the results.
It is important to say at this juncture that people with chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, among others, should have their lipids check periodically.
Have your blood checked today. Issues like dietary control and the role of exercise will be discussed. Kindly make it a date next week as I analyse the solution to hypercholesterolemia,
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Ask the doctor
Dear doctor, does drinking alcohol affect blood pressure?
Yes, drinking alcohol can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels. Having more than two to three drinks a day temporarily increases your blood pressure. Heavy drinkers who cut back to moderate drinking can lower their systolic blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure, avoid alcohol or drink alcohol only in moderation. Keep in mind that alcohol contains calories and may contribute to unwanted weight gain ? a risk factor for high blood pressure. Also, alcohol can interfere with the effectiveness and increase the side effects of some blood pressure medications.