As more of our population become obese and overweight, obesity diseases become much more prevalent. High Cholesterol is one such disease, and here I explain what it is, why it affects the overweight, symptoms and prevention.
What is it?
Cholesterol is in every cell in your body and is important for proper functioning of your body (i.e. used to build healthy cells and some vital hormones). With high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), fatty deposits may develop in your blood vessels, making it difficult for blood to properly flow through the arteries. With this restricted flow your heart may not get the oxygen-rich blood that it needs, possibly causing a heart attack or stroke, if blood flow is restricted to your brain.
Why is it affected by obesity/overweight?
Obesity is mainly caused by taking in more calories than are expended through physical activity and daily life. Taking in too many calories, or too much saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol will increase blood cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is an obesity-associated disease due to the increased amount of fat, especially when that fat is found in the abdominal region (“apple”-shaped individuals). Obesity raises blood LDL “bad” cholesterol and lowers HDL “good” cholesterol.
What are the symptoms?
High cholesterol has no signs or symptoms, a blood test is the only way to detect a problem. It’s recommended that everyone aged 20 and older have their cholesterol measured at least once every 5 years. The blood test, called lipoprotein profile, will give a report of your cholesterol numbers, which correlates your level of risk. A lipoprotein profile measures your total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels (fat carried in bloodstream). Indications of high cholesterol include the following:
- High cholesterol – total cholesterol higher than 240 (twice as likely to have heart disease)
- Low HDL cholesterol – “good” cholesterol is less than 40
- High LDL cholesterol – “bad” cholesterol is above 160
- Triglycerides – a number higher than 200
What can you do to prevent it?
High cholesterol is largely preventable and treatable; a healthy diet, regular exercise and sometimes medication can go a long way toward helping control and reduce high cholesterol.
- Smoking. Cigarette smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, making them likely to accumulate fatty deposits and may also lower your good cholesterol.
- Obesity. Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater puts you at risk of high cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels, as well as raise your HDL and lower your triglyceride levels.
- Poor diet. Foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol increase your total cholesterol. A low cholesterol diet is ideal.
- Lack of exercise. Regular physical activity can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels and helps you lose weight. It’s recommended to be physically active for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week.