Cholesterol is a very important lipid produced by your body, one that plays a role in a number of critical functions.
However, if it is produced in excess—due to poor diet and lifestyle habits—it can cause all kinds of problems. You’ll find that it can be the source of serious health risks if left unchecked.
By the end of this article, you’ll know all the reasons why it’s so critical that you manage your cholesterol levels and avoid high cholesterol at all costs!
First off, let’s break down cholesterol and its role in your body.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced by your liver, as well as absorbed via the food you eat. Cholesterol is the simple term given to the bundled packets of two different types of lipoproteins:
Cholesterol on its own isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s needed for the production of hormones, the manufacture of Vitamin D, the breakdown and digestion of your food, and organ function.
However, when your levels of LDL cholesterol get too high and your HDL cholesterol gets too low, that’s when you start to have problems. LDL cholesterol will build up on the walls of your arteries and, if not removed by HDL cholesterol, can harden and turn into plaque. That is when you start to see the negative effects on your body…
Basically, the LDL cholesterol builds up on the walls of your arteries and hardens into plaque. Slowly, more and more cholesterol will add to the layers of plaque, until the plaque is thick enough to narrow the arteries. This constricts the blood flow, forcing your heart to work even harder to push blood through the constricted areas.
But that narrowing is just half the problem!
When your arteries harden, courtesy of the stiff plaque, they are unable to bend and flex as your blood pressure rises and falls. Too much pressure on the stiff arteries may cause them to crack, which can lead to internal bleeding. This can be dangerous, if not fatal, and will require surgery to repair.
When plaque builds up in the blood vessels that send oxygenated blood from the lungs to your heart, it basically cuts off the supply of that crucial oxygen to your heart muscles. This lack of oxygen can damage the heart muscle and caused chest pain, also known as angina.
Angina isn’t the same as a heart attack, but it’s definitely not a good thing. That lack of oxygenated blood flow to your heart is a warning sign that you’re at serious risk for a heart attack.
Plaque may break off from the wall and form a clot or block your arteries, preventing all blood flow from reaching your heart. This is the cause of heart attacks.
Thanks to the hardened cholesterol-turned-plaque, the blood vessels to your brain are blocked and unable to transmit blood. The cells in your brain literally die off because of the lack of oxygen.
The plaque that forms in your arteries may also build up around the parts of your brain responsible for memory and recall. High cholesterol has been linked to both dementia and mental impairment.
Peripheral arterial disease, also known as PAD, is the result of blocked blood vessels that supply blood to your lower body. With no blood getting to your lower limbs, the cells begin to die off. If left untreated, the limb may have to be amputated.
Cholesterol is used by your body to produce bile, the fluid critical for breaking down the food you eat. However, too much cholesterol can cause the excess to form into hard crystals, which then turned into hard stones that form in your gallbladder. These are known as gallstones, which can be painful and may lead to serious health complications if left untreated.
Cholesterol is vital for healthy brain function, as it plays a role in protecting the nerve cells that allow your brain to communicate with the rest of your body. However, too-high cholesterol can lead to strokes that damage the brain, impairing the parts that affect memory, movement, speech, swallowing, and other critical functions.
As you can see, there are a LOT of potential effects when you suffer from high cholesterol. You’ll find that your body will likely begin to suffer if you don’t take steps to lower your cholesterol levels.
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