High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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High cholesterol is widely understood as a symptomless condition that gradually hinders cardiovascular health. It is characterised by a build-up of lipids in the blood vessels that can collect on the walls and narrow the passageways if left untreated. As this build-up advances, the symptoms are bound to become more apparent.
Medscape explains: “Familial hyper-cholesterolemia is an autosomal dominant disorder that causes severe elevations in cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.”
Often, people with the condition present with xanthomas on the Achilles tendons.
In general, symptoms tend to be consistent with ischemic heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, cerebrovascular disease and aortic stenosis.
Cholesterol is transported in the body by two different types of protein; low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
In hypercholesterolemia, the body has too much LDL in its blood, which directly hampers blood flow.
Reduced blood flow is likely to affect different organs over time, but the first signs may be reflected in the heart rate.
When blood flow to the extremities falters this affects the body’s ability to feel pulses.
These reductions in heart rates are medically referred to as bradycardia and are recognised by several health bodies as an indicator of high cholesterol.
The Mayo Clinic explains: “Bradycardia can be a serious problem if the heart rate is very slow and the heart can’t pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body.
“If this happens, you may feel dizzy, very tired or weak and short of breath. Sometimes, bradycardia does cause symptoms or complications.
“If bradycardia is severe, an implanted pacemaker may be needed to help the heart maintain an appropriate rate.”
A healthcare provider investigating pulses with a stethoscope may hear an abnormal swooshing sound in the veins that could indicate slow blood flow.
How to prevent hypercholesterolemia
Hypercholesterolemia is predominantly caused by eating a surplus of fatty foods and not exercising enough, as well as smoking and being overweight.
However, while lifestyle is a major cause of high cholesterol levels, some cases of hypercholesterolemia are genetic.
The condition may also be brought on by other underlying ailments like high blood pressure and diabetes.
The best way to prevent these is to adhere to heart-healthy habits through diet and exercise.
Fortunately, a great number of plant-based foods offer significant reductions in blood cholesterol.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dietary changes should include:
- Reducing saturated fats
- Eliminating trans fats
- Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Increasing whey protein
- Increasing soluble fibre.
The health body adds: “Exercise can improve cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the ‘good’ cholesterol.
“With your doctor’s okay, work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week or vigorous aerobic activity for 20 minutes three times a week.”
For cases of stubbornly high cholesterol, doctors may proceed to prescribe cholesterol-lowering medication like statins.
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