High cholesterol is one of the most widespread health problems nowadays. For example, in the USA, the number of adults having the cholesterol level that exceeds the norm is more than 100 million. And all those people are at risk of serious health problems if they do not normalize the situation.
Key Facts about Cholesterol
- Cholesterol is the substance that resembles fat or wax that is found in a body. An organism needs it for building cells. But, when there is an abundance of cholesterol, it can mount up in arteries and, consequently, narrow them, which leads to problems with a blood flow and heart operation and can result in a heart stroke and other dangerous conditions.
- As a rule, people with a high cholesterol level experience no symptoms, so, the only way to make sure that everything is OK is to undergo a test.
- US doctors recommend checking the cholesterol level every 5 years since the age of 20.
- High cholesterol is the problem that can affect kids and teenagers as well. So, over 20% of US young people aged 12–19 have a high cholesterol level.
- In case one has a high cholesterol level, that problem can be fixed by making certain changes to the lifestyle. If those steps do not help, a doctor will prescribe a medication.
How to Learn the Cholesterol Level?
As it has been noted above, adults should check a cholesterol level every 5 years. To do that, one can turn to a primary care physician.
That blood test is called a lipoprotein profile and provides information on a total cholesterol level, as well as levels of good cholesterol (or HDL), bad cholesterol (or LDL) and triglycerides.
For adults the norms are as follows:
- total cholesterol ― below 170 mg/dL;
- LDL ― below 110 mg/dL;
- HDL ― above 35 mg/dL;
- triglycerides ― below 150 mg/dL.
Solutions to a Problem of High Cholesterol Levels
In many cases, cholesterol levels can be normalized by leading a healthy lifestyle only and without using any medications.
However, even if a patient is prescribed a medication to lower cholesterol levels, sticking to the healthy habits below is also a must:
- Keeping to a healthy diet. To normalize cholesterol levels, one should exclude junk food and products with trans fats, minimize the consumption of red meat (healthy alternatives are fish, seafood and poultry meat), eat more fruits, vegetables and products from whole grains.
- Regular exercising. For youth below 18 years, the minimal norm is 60 minutes of physical activities per a day. As for adults, the weekly norms are 150 minutes of moderate physical activities or 75 minutes of intense exercising as a minimum. One more recommendation worth mentioning as a separate point ― exercising should be regular, i.e. a person should pay some time to physical activities every day (or at least on most days). If one cannot do sports, one can try riding a bicycle to work, having a walk after work or during a lunch break, playing some kind of a game in the open air.
- Keeping to a normal weight. A body mass index should not exceed 30, otherwise one risks having high cholesterol levels, as well as an extensive range of other serious health problems.
- Giving up bad habits. It is strictly advised to stop smoking and exclude (or at least minimize) alcohol, if you want to reduce cholesterol levels or to keep them to a healthy norm.
One more solution that can help one normalize cholesterol levels is taking dietary supplements.
In most cases, specialists recommend using such products:
- Fish oil. This supplement includes omega-3 fatty acids and eicosapentaenoic acid. According to results of researches, taking fish oil helps to decrease an amount of fat in the blood and to increase a level of “good” cholesterol. Also, specialists have found out that consumption of omega-3 decreases a risk of heart diseases and increases life expectancy. This food supplement has been being used all around the world for decades and has proven to make a positive impact on the general state of health as well.
- It is a soluble fiber that is produced from husks of ispaghula (Plantago ovata) seeds. According to results of studies, the use of this supplement can significantly lower both a total cholesterol level and a level of “bad” cholesterol.
- Coenzyme Q10. This supplement is a chemical that helps cells of an organism to produce energy. An organism can produce Q10 on its own, but, even if its natural level is normal, consuming extra amounts provides significant health benefits. Taking Q10 supplements may contribute to a reduction in a total cholesterol level. Also, this product can help to decrease a risk of certain heart problems.
As for drugs lowering cholesterol levels, the most frequently used options include:
- These oral tablets contain atorvastatin as an active substance and belong to the class of medicines called statins. This product helps to decrease levels of “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides and to increase a level of “good” cholesterol by reducing production of cholesterol by the liver. The use of this medication can help to lower a risk of heart diseases and to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
- This product includes simvastatin as an active ingredient. It is produced in the form of oral tablets. Similar to the previous drug, Zocor belongs to statins and normalizes cholesterol levels by lowering an amount of cholesterol produced by the liver. Its use contributes to prevention of heart problems as well.
- These oral pills belong to statins as well. They contain the active substance rosuvastatin. The mechanism of action of this drug is identical to that of the previous two products.
- The active ingredient of these pills is gemfibrozil. It belongs to fibrates and works by reducing production of cholesterol by the liver. This medicine can help to decrease a risk of pancreatitis, but its potential to lower a risk of heart problems is doubtful.
- This product is another fibrate that works identically to the previous item. The active substance used is fenofibrate.
- This medicine containing ezetimibe as a key ingredient also helps to reduce a cholesterol level, but its mechanism of action is different. It works by reducing an amount of cholesterol absorbed by an organism from foods and drinks. And that may help to prevent varied heart problems.
To sum up, checking cholesterol levels on a regular basis is a must for every person, regardless of the age, gender or health status. So, if it is time for you to take such a test, do not postpone a visit to the doctor’s and strive to follow all the recommendations provided by the specialist.