What Does High Cholesterol Do to the Body?

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What Does High Cholesterol Do to the Body?

It’s never too soon or too late to safeguard your heart health. With heart disease remaining the number one cause of death, everyone should make keeping their heart healthy a top priority. It’s estimated that 1-in-10 adults in the United States have high cholesterol, and this puts your heart at risk. What’s more, only slightly more than half of those who can benefit from medication to lower cholesterol currently take it. 

If you have or are at risk of having high cholesterol, it’s wise to work closely with a health care provider to manage your cholesterol and protect your heart. At Horizons Wellness Family Health NP PLLC, board-certified family nurse practitioner Albalira Gibson-Borrelli, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, provides cutting-edge care to keep you healthy and strong. 

High cholesterol has no symptoms, yet it can silently damage your blood vessels, setting the stage for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Read on to find out how high cholesterol affects your health, and what you can do about it!

Sets the stage for plaques

Healthy blood vessels are soft and flexible, allowing blood to flow easily. When you have high cholesterol, the biggest problem is that it sticks to artery walls, where over time it builds up and forms hard plaques. 

This issue narrows the arteries and causes them to stiffen, making it harder for blood to flow through them. The heart is strained and forced to pump harder to circulate blood.

Boosts coronary artery disease and heart attack risk

When plaques build up in the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart muscle, it can lead to coronary artery disease (CAD). What’s more, if plaque breaks apart, it can block blood flow through major arteries that supply blood to the heart, causing a heart attack. 

Raises stroke risk

Similar to blockages in the coronary arteries, they can also happen in the arteries that lead to the brain. A blockage or significant narrowing in these arteries can be catastrophic in the form of a stroke, which occurs when a part of the brain is deprived of oxygen.

May lead to peripheral arterial disease

High cholesterol can also lead to peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which affects the arteries of the legs, arms, and pelvis. PAD can cause numbness, pain, and sometimes dangerous infections.

Negatively impacts liver function

High cholesterol can burden the liver, which processes and clears excess cholesterol from the body. Over time, too much cholesterol can lead to fatty liver disease, where fat builds up in liver cells.

Managing high cholesterol

While genetics play a role in high cholesterol, there are many things you can do to bring your cholesterol within a safer range and keep it there. Diet and lifestyle changes are the cornerstone of managing cholesterol. 

These lifestyle changes include adopting a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, and losing excess weight. Even a modest weight loss of 5 to 10% of your body weight can help lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. 

Knowing that there are things in your control can provide the motivation you need to make beneficial changes. However, even with diet and lifestyle changes, some patients need additional help getting their cholesterol controlled. 

When this is the case, our team may recommend cholesterol-lowering medication, which is often the recommendation if your cholesterol is currently in the danger zone. If your cholesterol is only mildly elevated, we may suggest starting with some changes to your diet and lifestyle. 

If you’re concerned about your cholesterol level or heart health, stop in for a checkup. We can discuss your cholesterol profile with you, and put together some strategies for improving your levels and supporting long-term heart health. Contact our Middletown, New York office, or book online today. Take steps today, for a heart-healthy tomorrow!