menPsyche

High Cholesterol? Here’s What Every Modern Man Should Know

by Jennifer Richardson

High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is an essential substance in the human body. It is a building block for cell membranes and helps in the production of hormones, vitamin D, and bile. However, excessive amounts of cholesterol can lead to many serious health complications, like heart disease.

As men age and their testosterone levels decline, this topic becomes more important. That’s because testosterone is essential in fat metabolism, helping maintain cholesterol levels in men’s bodies. Moreover, many working men are becoming accustomed to unhealthy lifestyle choices as they tackle hectic work and personal lives today, which can also result in high cholesterol.  

If you are looking for ways to keep your cholesterol at healthy levels and reduce your risk of related health conditions, here is a guide to help you achieve better health.

Causes of High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a substance attached to proteins that are carried through our blood. When protein and cholesterol come together, they are called lipoproteins. There are two types of lipoprotein: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). 

HDL is the “good cholesterol.” It collects extra cholesterol and returns it to the liver.  On the other hand, LDL is dubbed “bad cholesterol.” It causes cholesterol build-up in our arteries, narrowing and hardening them. 

cholestrol in blood

When one has a high level of bad cholesterol in the body, one is at risk of many health complications. To manage high cholesterol, your doctor will prescribe appropriate medication like statins and cholesterol absorption inhibitors, among other options that we will explore later in this guide. Optimal dosing time, dosage, and side effects are also other factors you might want to ask your doctor regarding such medications. 

High cholesterol is a condition that can be genetic. However, in many instances, high cholesterol is developed through unhealthy lifestyle choices.  Besides the imbalance of these lipoproteins, as mentioned earlier, the following lifestyle  factors can contribute to high levels of cholesterol in the body:

high cholestrol foods

  • Unhealthy Diet. Carbohydrate consumption is associated with high cholesterol (not the consumption of cholesterol-containing foods).
  • Lack of Exercise. Exercise boosts your HDL or good cholesterol. So, if you seldom exercise or don’t exercise at all, it will translate to high levels of fatty LDL cholesterol.
  • Alcohol and Smoking. Drinking alcohol can boost your overall cholesterol levels, while smoking lower the good cholesterol in the body.
  • Age. As we age, our body composition, medication use, diet, hormone levels, and physical activity levels also change, which may contribute to the increase of bad cholesterol in the body. Additionally, our liver becomes less effective in removing LDL cholesterol as we age.
  • Obesity. Obesity influences how our body manages lipoproteins, cholesterol, and triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. A body mass index (BMI) of 30 and above increases our risk of high cholesterol. 

Consequences of High Cholesterol

High cholesterol has an extensive effect on the human body. If you ignore the numbers, you might be dealing with the following health conditions later:

  1. Stroke. High cholesterol levels can clog your arteries with fatty deposits, obstructing blood flow to the brain and reducing the amount of oxygen in the brain cells.
  2. High Blood Pressure. When your heart arteries become hard and narrow due to fatty deposits, the heart has to make an effort to pump blood through the arteries, which can result in hypertension. 
  3. Artery Disease. High cholesterol can cause PAD (peripheral artery disease). This condition reduces blood away from the heart and the other body parts. 
  4. Diabetes. High cholesterol can lead to a higher risk of diabetes. If you have diabetes, the levels of good cholesterol in the body will likely decrease while the bad cholesterol amps up, resulting in complications with stroke and heart attack.

How to Maintain a Healthy Level of Cholesterol

We now know the risks associated with high cholesterol and how serious they are. However, you should know you can maintain a healthy cholesterol level by eating heart-healthy foods.

healthy foods to maintain cholestrol

These include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Examples are mackerel, herring, salmon, flaxseeds, and walnuts.

In addition, you should consume soluble fiber, which can reduce cholesterol absorption into your bloodstream. Foods rich in soluble fiber are apples, pears, Brussels sprouts, kidney beans, and oatmeal. Whey protein is also an excellent addition to your diet. They lower bad cholesterol, overall cholesterol, and blood pressure. 

You should also increase your physical activity to boost good cholesterol levels. Simple physical activities like brisk walking, riding a bike, and playing your favorite sport every weekend can definitely help maintain a healthy level of cholesterol.

physical activity and high cholestrol

As already mentioned, obesity contributes to high cholesterol. So, make an effort to maintain a healthy body weight. You may have to cut your daily consumption of sugary snacks and beverages. Instead, you can munch air-popped popcorn and pretzels. If you often crave sweets, try candies with little or no fat.

Diagnosis and Medications for High Cholesterol

The present blood test to check cholesterol levels is called “lipid profile” or “lipid panel.” It reports your total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. Before taking this test, you must fast for nine to 12 hours. However, in some tests, fasting might not be needed.

So, follow your doctor’s instructions as required. 

1 5 High Cholesterol

Doctors may first recommend lifestyle changes for people with high cholesterol. However, some medications might be needed if these shifts don’t improve cholesterol levels. Common medications are statins, which block a substance that allows the liver to produce cholesterol. 

Other medications are cholesterol absorption inhibitors, which limit the small intestine’s absorption of dietary cholesterol. Newer drugs like Bempedoic acid can also be prescribed. They work the same way as statins but are less likely to cause muscle pain. 

Bile-acid-binding resins also indirectly reduce cholesterol by binding to bile acids. This medication prompts the liver to produce more bile acids and uses excess cholesterol, reducing cholesterol in the blood.

PCSK9 inhibitors are also prescribed to help the liver absorb more LDL cholesterol, decreasing cholesterol circulating in the blood. This option is for people with a history of coronary disease and who are intolerant to statins and other medications. It’s also used by patients with a genetic condition that causes very high levels of LDL. It’s a very expensive medication that is injected under the skin every few weeks. 

Wrapping Up

Our body needs cholesterol, but unhealthy levels of this substance can result in many risky health conditions. Typically, it doesn’t have any obvious signs and symptoms. That’s why you must have your cholesterol level checked before any of the consequences we discussed here manifest. It’s a silent killer you can avoid, so take precautions and make healthier lifestyle choices today. 

References

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