Cholesterol, a fatty lipid molecule, is naturally produced by the liver and affects everything from digestive processes to heart health. It can be both good and bad: while small amounts are essential for cell function, excess cholesterol in the bloodstream can lead to serious problems down the road. That’s why it’s so important to understand the risk factors that can lead to high cholesterol, as the well-known organization Mayo Clinic points out. In this article, we’ll cover 6 of the most common risk factors for high cholesterol according to the Mayo Clinic, so you know how to best take care of your health.
Hypercholesterolemia can be caused by genetic factors, called familial hypercholesterolemia. This inherited condition causes high levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) from birth and can cause cardiovascular complications at a young age. People with familial hypercholesterolemia are often resistant to lifestyle changes and require drug treatment to lower their cholesterol levels.
A diet high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels. Foods that contain saturated fat include red meat, whole dairy products, and fried foods. Trans fats are found in processed foods and baked goods. Cholesterol is mainly found in animal products, such as meat and eggs.
Obesity is a major risk factor for hypercholesterolemia. Obese people often have high total cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), and high triglyceride levels. Weight loss can help reduce these risks and improve cholesterol levels.
Lack of exercise:
Lack of physical activity is also a risk factor for high cholesterol. A sedentary lifestyle leads to increased LDL cholesterol and decreased HDL cholesterol. Regular exercise, such as walking, cycling, or swimming, can improve cholesterol levels by raising HDL cholesterol and lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Smoking cigarettes damages the walls of blood vessels, making it easier for plaque to build up and blood clots to form. Smoking also lowers HDL cholesterol levels and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Quitting smoking can help improve cholesterol levels and reduce cardiovascular risk.
Age and gender:
The risk of hypercholesterolemia increases with age. Men are generally more likely to develop high cholesterol than women. However, after menopause, women’s risk increases and becomes similar to men’s. It is important for both men and women to regularly monitor their cholesterol levels and adopt a healthy lifestyle to reduce this risk.
What happens to our body in case of high cholesterol?
Hypercholesterolemia is a medical condition characterized by a high concentration of cholesterol in the blood. During a case of hypercholesterolemia, our body faces several imbalances and potential complications:
Formation of atherosclerotic plaques:
Excess cholesterol can lead to the formation of atherosclerotic plaques on the inner lining of the arteries. These plaques are made up of cholesterol, fats, calcium and fibrous substances. Over time, they can harden and narrow the arteries, impeding blood flow. This phenomenon is called atherosclerosis.
Cardiovascular illnesses :
Atherosclerosis promotes the development of cardiovascular diseases. Indeed, the narrowing of the arteries can cause an insufficiency of the blood supply at the level of the heart, thus leading to chest pains, even a myocardial infarction (heart attack) in the most serious cases. Similarly, if the arteries that supply the brain are affected, it can cause a stroke.
The buildup of atherosclerotic plaques can cause the arteries to harden, making their walls less flexible and less able to expand, contributing to the development of hypertension, or high blood pressure.
Liver and kidney disorders:
Excess cholesterol can also lead to liver problems, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (accumulation of fat in the liver) or liver cirrhosis. Also, if the renal arteries narrow due to atherosclerosis, it can lead to kidney failure.
A high cholesterol level can promote the formation of gallstones, which are composed mainly of crystallized cholesterol. These stones can block the bile duct and cause acute inflammation of the pancreas, called pancreatitis.
Hypercholesterolemia is therefore a worrying condition that requires appropriate management to minimize the associated risks and preserve health. The implementation of preventive and therapeutic measures, such as a healthy and balanced diet, regular physical activity, stress management and, if necessary, the use of drug treatment, is essential to avoid complications. and improve the quality of life of those affected.