High cholesterol is a condition that puts one at higher risk for stroke and heart attack. It is important to note that cholesterol is a fatty substance present in the blood and produced by the liver. It is also present in some foods.
If an individual has high cholesterol, it increases the risk for conditions such as stroke and coronary heart disease. The reason for this is that cholesterol can accumulate in the arterial walls. This results to an increase in the blood pressure, limited flow of blood to the heart, brain and the entire body.
Causes of high cholesterol
- Lack of exercise
- Unhealthy diet that includes foods that contain a lot of saturated fat
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Overweight or obese
- High blood pressure
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Family history of heart conditions, high cholesterol or stroke
- Ethnicity especially Pakistani, Indian, Sri Lankan or Bangladeshi descent
The initial treatment for high cholesterol involves lifestyle modifications on the diet, increasing the level of exercise, cessation of smoking and reducing the intake of alcohol. If all these factors are dealt with but the level of cholesterol does not improve within a few months, medications might be prescribed.
Dietary changes involve reducing the intake of saturated fat. It is important to note that saturated fat is solid at room temperature such as butter, cheese, meat fat and even sweet products such as chocolate, cream, biscuits and cakes.
There are various medications that can be given to lower the cholesterol level such as the following:
- Aspirin – this is given in a low dose to minimize the formation of blood clots
- Statins – these medications work by blocking the enzyme in the liver which produces cholesterol.
- Ezetimibe – this works by blocking the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. It is considered less effective than statins but has fewer side effects