If you have high cholesterol levels in your blood, it can increase your risk for complications like heart attacks and strokes. This is because high cholesterol can contribute to clogging and hardening of your arteries (atherosclerosis), making it more difficult for your heart to deliver blood to the various parts of your body.
If the arteries to your heart or brain become significantly blocked, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke. If the arteries going to your limbs (usually the legs) become blocked, it can lead to tissue death.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF CHOLESTEROL?
You might have heard about some types of cholesterol being called “good cholesterol” and some types being called “bad cholesterol”. This can become confusing. There are different types of cholesterol which has different roles within the body:
- High density lipoprotein (HDL) is the “good” type because it transports cholesterol from various parts of the body to the liver, where it can be converted to other substances and removed from the body. Normal values for HDL should be more than 1.2 mmol/l for women and 1.0 mmol/l for men.
- Low density lipoprotein (LDL) is the “bad” type because it transports cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body, where it can clog up arteries. LDL is the type of cholesterol that contributes to atherosclerosis. The target values for LDL is less than 3 mmol/ℓ
- Triglycerides are not a type of cholesterol, but you may have seen this measurement in some of the blood tests that you have had. They are a type of fat from the food we eat that is carried in your blood and having high levels is associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Triglycerides should be less than 1.7 mmol/l.
If you have high cholesterol levels, it is important to take action to try and lower it. In addition to that, you should try to decrease other factors that also increase your chance of developing atherosclerosis. Things such as physical inactivity, smoking, poor diet and stress all need to be addressed. If you have other health concerns like hypertension, diabetes or obesity, learn how to manage these correctly so that you can lower your risk as much as possible.
Article written by Dr Jessica Hamuy Blanco | Health Window
References: Klug, E., Raal, F., Marais, A., Smuts, C. et al. 2018. South African
dyslipidaemia guideline consensus statement: 2018 update A
joint statement from the South African Heart Association and
the Lipid and Atherosclerosis Society of Southern Africa. South
African Medical Journal, 108(11b):973–1000.