Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention of High Cholesterol


Cholesterol is essential for your body. It plays a crucial role in your body’s ability to build healthy cells, and your body cannot simply function without it. But as you’ve probably heard, not all cholesterol is good. It’s easy to eat your way to an alarmingly high cholesterol level. And the reverse is true too — changing what you eat and a healthy lifestyle can lower your cholesterol. Hence it’s important to understand cholesterol and how it is good or bad for you.

Your liver produces a waxy, fat-like compound called cholesterol. It helps in the formation of certain hormones, Vitamin C, and cell membranes. Cholesterol cannot travel in the body by itself because it does not dissolve in water. Instead, certain substance called lipoproteins help transport cholesterol throughout the body. It comes in two forms;

  1. LDL or Low-Density Lipoproteins. They are colloquially called ‘bad cholesterol.’ LDL can tend to build up in the arteries and lead to high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.
  2. HDL or High-Density Lipoproteins. They are colloquially called ‘good cholesterol.’ HDL can help return the LDL cholesterol back to the liver for elimination.

Eating foods with high fat content increases the LDL cholesterol level in the blood. This condition is called high cholesterol, hypercholesterolemia or hyperlipidemia. In this condition, LDL deposits continue to build up in the arteries making blood flow difficult. It may cause problems throughout the body, especially in the heart and the brain.

healthcare experts at emeds pharmacy advise for a more frequent checkup if there is a history of high cholesterol in your immediate family, or if you have;

  • A smoking habit
  • High blood pressure
  • Overweight

Symptoms of High Cholesterol

  • Coronary Heart Disease. Angina, chest pain, extreme fatigue, nausea, numbness in the extremities, shortness of breath, pain in the upper abdomen, back, jaw, or neck.
  • Stroke. Loss of balance, dizziness, confusion, slurred speech, blurred vision, severe headache, drooping eyelids or mouth on just one side, numbness in the arm, leg or face.
  • Heart Attack. Tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, pain in the chest and arms.
  • Peripheral Artery Disease. Cramps, exhaustion, pain and discomfort in legs and feet during activity.

Typically, high cholesterol does not cause symptoms. It is a silent disease that lies in wait until it can challenge mortality. When its symptoms near, a visit to the ER becomes necessary. Heart attack and stroke are one of the most common and most lethal symptoms of high cholesterol.

As stated earlier, high cholesterol is a silent disease. It does not manifest overnight. The symptoms do not appear until enough plaque deposits in the arteries. The narrow arteries allow less blood to pass through. This plaque also disturbs the makeup of the arterial lining, leading to severe complications.

The only authentic way to find out if you have high cholesterol is a blood test. If your blood cholesterol level is above 240 mg/dL, it is too high. You can ask your doctor to perform a high cholesterol test when you turn 20. Get another examination every 4-6 years.

Causes of High Cholesterol

Following activities, conditions, or circumstances increase the risk of developing high cholesterol;

  • Eating foods with high fats, trans fats, and cholesterol content
  • Long bouts of inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Genetics
  • Familial hypercholesterolemia
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Hypothyroidism

Poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle are the biggest contributors to the increasing high cholesterol patients in Pakistan. Genetics plays a part in developing this condition too. If one or both of your parents had high cholesterol, chances are you will develop it as well.

Familial hypercholesterolemia is a genetic disorder that prevents the body from getting rid of LDL, leading to high cholesterol. Diabetes and hypothyroidism can cause several complications, high cholesterol being one of them.

Medicinal Treatments of High Cholesterol

For patients with high cholesterol, the doctor always recommends certain lifestyle changes that may help lower it. These changes include diet control, exercising and quitting smoking. When these changes alone do not suffice, the doctor may prescribe specific medication to help lower the high cholesterol.

Medicines belonging to the Statin class are the most beneficial for high cholesterol patients. These medicines block your liver’s ability to produce more cholesterol. Following are some popular types of Statins in Pakistan;

  • Atorvastatin
  • Fluvastatin
  • Rosuvastatin
  • Simvastatin

Some other medicines that may help treat high cholesterol are;

  • Niacin
  • Bile acid resins
  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors

Some medications contain a combination of drugs that help decrease the absorption of cholesterol from the foods. Additionally, they reduce cholesterol production in the liver. Such combination drugs are only prescribed when other options prove insufficient.

Natural and Ancient Treatments of High Cholesterol

Some natural treatments that may help with high cholesterol are;

  • Hawthorne is a shrub that is effective against milder heart disorders.
  • Astralagus is a herb that supports the immune system.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oils help protect the heart.
  • Flaxseed lowers the risk of heart disease.
  • Garlic helps reduce high cholesterol level.
  • Plant sterols and stanols help prevent the small intestine from absorbing cholesterol.
  • Red yeast rice helps lower blood cholesterol levels.

Prevention of High Cholesterol

Your doctor or emeds pharmacy health expert may suggest following changes to your diet to prevent high cholesterol from developing;

  • Limit the intake of foods with high cholesterol, fats and trans fats content.
  • Consume lean proteins, like chicken, fish and legumes.
  • Eat foods with high fibre content, like fruits, whole grains and vegetables.
  • Avoid fried foods. Eat baked, steamed, broiled, or grilled food in their place.
  • Avoid eating fast foods or junk food.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks.

High Cholesterol Foods To Avoid

Following are the foods with high cholesterol, fats and trans fats. You must eat them in moderation or avoid them altogether to prevent or treat high cholesterol;

  • Red and organ meats
  • Egg yolk
  • Dairy products with high fat content
  • Processed foods containing cocoa, palm oil and coconut oil
  • Deep-fried foods, including onion rings, fried chicken and potato chips
  • Some baked foods, including certain cookies and muffins

Fish or fish oil contains Omega-3 fatty acids that help lower LDL levels. Mackerel, Herring and Salmon are rich sources for Omega-3. Almonds, walnuts, avocados and ground flax seeds also contain Omega-3.

What Have We Learned?

Cholesterol is a type of fat in the blood either digested with a diet or produced by the liver. Your age, genetics, food, and activity level determine if you are at risk of developing high cholesterol. High cholesterol is a major factor behind heart disease and stroke. To prevent, control or treat high cholesterol, your doctor may suggest changes to diet, consumption of certain foods, exercise, and quitting smoking.