Cholesterol: causes and consequences

Cholesterol, everyone has it and this should be the case. But at what point do you speak of a bad cholesterol level? And what are the causes and consequences of this? The amount of bad cholesterol in your body must be broken down and you can do this by living a healthier life and eating less bad fats. If this does not work, then medication is the only solution left and of course we want to avoid that.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that the body needs itself. It is a building material for the body and also for hormones. Without cholesterol the body cannot function. But too much cholesterol is actually harmful to your body. Cholesterol is produced by your body itself, by the liver or by the food you consume every day. Your body has responded to this and therefore absorbs exactly enough cholesterol for the necessary building materials.

Good and bad cholesterol

The most important cholesterol particles are LDL and HDL. LDL transports the cholesterol to different parts of your body, and along the way the cholesterol can settle in the walls of arteries, for example, and narrow them. So LDL is a bad cholesterol. HDL is a good cholesterol. This ensures that the excess cholesterol in your body is transported to your liver. The liver ensures that the cholesterol ends up in the intestines and is excreted through our feces. Because this HDL cholesterol is excreted and does not accumulate in the body, it is called good cholesterol.

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are also fats found in the blood. With triglycerides, the lower this level, the better. The value in triglycerides is added to the cholesterol level to determine whether your cholesterol level is too high. Triglycerides are common fats found in food, such as meat, cheese and dairy products.

Cholesterol too high?

A blood test is required to measure whether your cholesterol level is too high. This is a simple test that you can have done by your doctor. There is even equipment available that allows you to check your cholesterol at home. It is best to check this on an empty stomach and not to do one examination, but two different ones within two weeks to get a more objective result. You may have eaten something that contains a lot of triglycerides, which gives you a higher cholesterol score. Below is an overview of cholesterol levels and the associated results (source: www.hartstichting.nl).

Total cholesterol level

Your cholesterol level is

lower than 5.0 mmol/l

Normal

5.0 – 6.4 mmol/l

Slightly raised

6.5 – 7.9 mmol/l

Increased

higher than 8.0 mmol/l

Strongly increased

Causes of (too) high cholesterol

There are a number of known causes that can cause your cholesterol to be (too) high. Unfortunately, you have no influence on some of these causes, but you do have influence on others.

Too much saturated fat and cholesterol-rich food

Saturated fats are, as it were, bad fats that occur in products such as whole dairy products, fatty meat, cookies, pastries, etc. Because of these saturated fats, the body produces more (and therefore too much) cholesterol than it needs and stores it in the body. This can cause all kinds of problems.

Body weight too high

If you are overweight, you have too much fat in your body. Fats in your belly in particular can cause higher cholesterol levels.

Diabetes / diabetes
People who have diabetes have a greater risk of high cholesterol. If you have diabetes, it is certainly advisable to test this on yourself. This is to prevent further risks.

Genetic predisposition

Sometimes high cholesterol levels can also be hereditary. If you know that there are family members who already have cholesterol problems at a young age, it is advisable to test this (regularly) yourself. With hereditary cholesterol problems, a diet is in most cases not sufficient and medication will have to be prescribed.

Consequences of (too) high cholesterol

In itself, you will not notice much of having high cholesterol, although it can cause, for example, oppressive pain in the chest area. The most dangerous thing is that over time your arteries become narrower, meaning that blood cannot flow sufficiently to the organs (brain, heart) where it is most needed. There is also a chance that a blood clot will break loose, causing no more blood to flow through a vein and thus causing a heart attack or stroke.

How can you lower your cholesterol levels?

You can lower your cholesterol in several ways:

  • A diet of low-cholesterol products, so less saturated fats.
  • More exercise, which is generally good and healthy. The guideline here is to exert yourself and be active for at least 30 minutes a day. So take the bike and the stairs more often.
  • Quit smoking; Smoking is also a major risk factor when it comes to cardiovascular disease.