Cholesterol is a natural fatty substance necessary for the normal functioning of the body. But when its levels skyrocket, we put our health at risk: people with blood cholesterol levels above 240 double the chances of suffering a myocardial infarction compared to those who maintain figures below 200. That is why it is vital to control it and try to keep it at bay.
What happens when the cells are unable to absorb all the cholesterol circulating in the blood is that the excess is deposited on the wall of the arteries, contributing to their progressive narrowing and causing what is known as atherosclerosis. A situation that can begin to occur when the figures that national and international scientific societies. Understand as adequate are exceeded and they place around, or below, 200 mg/dL of total cholesterol. Above that figure, there is already hypercholesterolemia.
If we focus only on what is popularly known as “bad” cholesterol. Carried in low-density lipoproteins (LDL or low-density lipoproteins). We should not exceed the limit of 130 mg/dL, although an even lower amount is desirable. For below 100 mg/dL in patients who have already suffered a cardiovascular event (heart attack, angina, stroke, etc.). Regarding cholesterol transported in high-density lipoproteins (HDL or High-density lipoproteins), or “good” cholesterol, the ideal amount should be greater than 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women. To find out what levels our cholesterol is at, we just need a blood test.
Cholesterol accumulates mainly in the inner wall of the blood vessels, specifically in the arteries. And especially in the coronary arteries, those that supply the lower limbs. Even in the arteries that supply the brain. There, this deposit produces inflammation and consequent fibrosis, which in turn creates a plaque that can clog the arteries.
When this partial obstruction occurs at the level of the heart arteries, the symptoms presented by the patient are those of angina – chest pain, especially when we exert ourselves, although it can also appear at rest. But if it is a total obstruction in an acute way, it can cause an acute myocardial infarction. And when these plaques affect the vessels that go to the brain, the result is cerebrovascular accidents or strokes.
Hence the importance of an early diagnosis that allows these levels to be reduced to the appropriate figures, for which routine controls that include blood tests are essential since even if the figures are high they do not cause any symptoms until the obstruction of the arteries is such. angina, heart attack, or stroke occurs.
If cholesterol levels are only slightly elevated and there are no associated medical problems. The usual treatment is based on a balanced diet. With little content of saturated fat (red meat, organ meats, pork or lamb fat, pastries, cured cheese…). And rich in healthy foods that help reduce the blood concentration of LDL cholesterol. This diet, combined with the practice of moderate-intensity aerobic sports three to five times a week, can increase HDL levels and reduce LDL levels.
However, if diet and physical exercise alone fail to lower levels or there are associated medical problems that require rapid intervention, treatment with drugs such as statins, exchange resins, phytosterols, fibrates, or ezetimibe.
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