High cholesterol, also known as hypercholesterolemia, puts men at a greater risk for heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease. While many things can affect your risk of high cholesterol, including a poor diet, lack of exercise, and smoking, it’s important to know exactly what cholesterol is before you make any dietary or lifestyle changes. If you need assistance with cholesterol management, or you’re looking for medical advice when it comes to diabetes and weight loss management, contact our men’s healthcare physicians today.
Cholesterol Management in Tucson
If you frequent a family doctor, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about cholesterol levels before, but what exactly is it? Cholesterol is a waxy substance that can be found in your blood and in your cells. The liver makes up most of the cholesterol in your body, and the rest comes from the foods you eat. Cholesterol travels through your bloodstream in little packets called lipoproteins, and can come in two forms:
- Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) – Also known as the “bad” cholesterol, LDL cholesterol can build up in your arteries and form fatty, waxy deposits known as plaques.
- High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) – Known as the “good” type of cholesterol, HDL transports excess cholesterol out of your arteries and into your liver, which removes it from the body completely.
It’s important to note that cholesterol itself isn’t bad. In fact, your body needs some cholesterol to make things like hormones, vitamin D, and other digestive fluids. Cholesterol can be used to help your organs function properly, however too much LDL cholesterol can be a problem. Over time, high levels of cholesterol can damage your arteries, contribute to heart disease, and even increase your risk of a stroke.
Cardiovascular and Circulatory Systems
When there’s too much LDL cholesterol in your body, it can lead to a buildup in your arteries. The hardening of the arteries is known as atherosclerosis, and when this occurs it can make it difficult for your heart to push out blood through your arteries. As plaque slowly starts to build up inside of your body, it can disrupt the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle.
The Nervous System
Did you know that cholesterol is an essential component of the human brain? In fact, studies show that the brain contains about 20 percent of the body’s entire supply of cholesterol. This fat is critical in the development and protection of nerve cells, which are what enables the brain to communicate with the rest of the body. While we need cholesterol for our brain to function optimally, too much of it can cause damage. An excess amount of cholesterol in the body can lead to strokes, memory loss, and even movement loss. Having high levels of cholesterol can accelerate the formation of beta-amyloid plaques, also known as the sticky protein deposits that damage the brain in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
In our digestive system, cholesterol is an essential part of the bile production process. Bile is a substance that is created to help your body break down foods to absorb nutrients in the small intestines. If your cholesterol levels are too high, the excess cholesterol can form into crystals which then turn into hard stones in your gallbladder. Gallstones are known to be extremely painful.
High Cholesterol Risk Factors
Your blood cholesterol level is affected not only by what you eat, but by how quickly your body makes LDL cholesterol. There are many factors that can help you determine if your LDL cholesterol levels are too high or too low, however it’s always best to seek advice from a medical professional. Let’s look at some high cholesterol risk factors below:
- Obesity – If your body mass index (BMI) is greater than 30, you are at a higher risk for developing high cholesterol.
- Poor Diet – As you may have guessed, your diet plays a large role in your body’s cholesterol levels. A high-fat, high-cholesterol diet will no doubt raise your cholesterol levels. If you’re a fan of red meat and full-fat dairy products, you’re putting yourself at risk. Consuming an abundance of trans fats (commercial baked goods and fried foods), can also lead to high levels of cholesterol in men.
- Lack of Exercise – If it’s been awhile since you hit the gym, your LDL cholesterol levels may be too high. A lack of exercise can increase your levels of LDL cholesterol, putting you at a greater risk of a heart attack or stroke.
- Smoking – As you may already know, smoking can lead to a myriad of health concerns, including high cholesterol levels. When you smoke on a regular basis, you risk damaging your blood vessels which can lead to a variety of cardiovascular issues.
- Family History – If one of your parents or one of your siblings has developed heart disease, you are far more likely to develop high cholesterol levels in your lifetime.
As you can see, there are many things that can have an effect on your levels of cholesterol. If you have any of the high cholesterol risk factors listed above, speak with a medical professional about how you can lower these levels for a healthier and happier life. At the Men’s Vitality Center in Tucson, we’re proud to be a leading provider of men’s health care services throughout Arizona. If you’re interested in learning more about our team of certified physicians or you’d like to schedule an appointment for cholesterol management, contact us today!