Cholesterol: What Do We Know?

 The Human body stores fats in cholesterol, which is essential for normal functioning, such as digestion of food and vitamin D production, and an integral part of the cell membrane. 

Contrary to popular belief, not all cholesterol is terrible. There are two types, namely “good” and “bad” cholesterol. The former is called HDL (high-density lipoprotein), and the latter is referred to as LDL (low-density lipoprotein).  Owning to its name: ‘good’ cholesterol is advantageous for the body, while ‘bad’ cholesterol is notorious. With that being said, low HDL levels and high LDL levels, are both injurious for the body. Therefore, when the threshold of LDL is breached, high cholesterol symptoms manifest; the same can happen when HDL levels fall drastically. 

Where Does My Body Get Cholesterol ?

 The body has an ample number of cholesterol reserves, the liver synthesizes it, and the rest is obtained by consuming animals and animal products, such as meat, dairy products , and poultry.

The insidious clinical presentation

Insidious Clinical Presentation

As it circulates the body via the blood, cholesterol present in excess (also known as hypercholesterolemia) will accumulate on the arterial wall. This process known as atherosclerosis can begin as early as the first decade of life.

However, high cholesterol problems or symptoms will herald the underlying disease when this deposition is large enough to occlude blood circulation. Depending upon the location and the magnitude of artery occlusion, the provision of nutrients and oxygen to the affected organ will be  cut off, and the clinical presentation may vary;, this includes:

Coronary Heart Disease: Commonly presenting as upper chest pain radiating to the jaw and neck, shortness of breath, and lethargy, it is one of the most distressing presentations causing life-long morbidity and can even prove fatal if not promptly treated. Once the plaque causes a complete blockage, a heart attack may ensue.

Heart Attack: Complete loss of nutrients to the heart, known as ischemia, can result in heart muscle death termed  “myocardial infarction.” It may remain asymptomatic if the tissue affected is not extensive; but more commonly presents as a squeezing pain in the chest, a feeling of impending doom, fainting spell, and heartburn. As such, it’s deemed as a ‘medical emergency,” and one must undertake appropriate measures to salvage the remaining heat muscles.

Stroke: The human brain relies on an uninterrupted blood supply for glucose, as it cannot store it. Thus, when supply to a part of the brain is cut off, symptoms corresponding to the area of blood deprivation will be evident. The most commonly seen are drooping of one side of the face with drooling, paralysis of one side of the body, inability to speak, visual dysfunction, dizziness, and loss of balance. 

Peripheral Artery Disease: Intermittent blood supply to extremities can cause symptoms such as muscle spasms, numbness, fatigue, and discoloration of the skin due to lack of oxygen.

Should you be worried About Your Cholesterol Levels?

Certain predisposing factors may put you at risk of having high circulating cholesterol levels; these range from an idle lifestyle’, unhealthy and random snacking habits, obesity, high blood pressure, to smoking. (4) The       factors above mentioned are modifiable, and if kept at bay, can lower cholesterol levels and thus reduce the likelihood of getting any severe symptoms. Additionally, cholesterol levels tend to rise as one age

However, hypercholesterolemia may also be inherited, termed “familial hypercholesterolemia, ” it causes inherently raised cholesterol levels exceeding the range of 300 mg/ld..

When to consult a doctor?

Frequent visits to the General Physician, for assessment of health care connect are advised. In addition Getting your baseline investigations done every few months can help identify the risk factors of hypercholesterolemia, and prompt treatment can eliminate unprecedented manifestations. 

Unfortunately, it is often diagnosed when the damage has been done. The only way to ensure the presence of the disease is after rigorous investigations are performed following an attack caused by atherosclerosis.
Therefore, it is imperative to consult a doctor if you have any of the risk factors mentioned above or a family doctor new patients history of hypercholesterolemia. . Additionally strict adherence to dietary modification and compliance to medications prescribed can lower the risk of future complications.