You’ve surely heard the word “cholesterol” used, often in relation to a parent or other adult’s need to reduce their cholesterol levels by making healthier food choices. But if you aren’t entirely clear on what cholesterol is, whether it’s a good or bad thing, what the causes of high cholesterol are, and the symptoms indicating this concern is closer to home than you might have expected, you don’t need to look any further. We’ll outline what cholesterol is and answer these questions about the symptoms and causes of high cholesterol so you can determine whether you or someone you know is struggling with this area of their health.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol comes in three forms: “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and dangerous very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol. Cholesterol itself is a waxy substance made in the liver and ingested from animal product fats. Because HDL cholesterol makes hormones and vitamins, as well as helps flush out the bad cholesterols, it’s important to have. The amount produced by your liver is all your body needs (although it’s good practice to consume small amounts of healthy cholesterol). But when you consume additional levels of bad cholesterol, your body gets overloaded with the substance, which leads to dangerous heart and circulatory system issues. When people talk about lowering high cholesterol, they’re referring to lowering their LDL and VLDL cholesterol, the kinds consumed through unhealthy foods.
What Causes High Cholesterol?
High cholesterol levels can be caused by diet, which is generally a main cause of cholesterol concern. Trans fats and saturated fats found in processed and fried foods are particular culprits, as well as animal fats. But predisposed conditions like family health history or gender (women past menopause are at higher risk) can also play a role. Additionally, age is a good indicator that it’s time to be extra cautious about your cholesterol levels; an increased threat begins at age 45.
Another controllable factor of high cholesterol is lifestyle; those who smoke, those who are overweight, those with high blood pressure, and those who are physically stagnant face greater risk of health issues stemming from their cholesterol levels.
What Are the Symptoms of Cholesterol?
Unfortunately, high cholesterol is a sneaky health issue that doesn’t generate symptoms to alert you to make diet and lifestyle changes. The best way to know whether you have unhealthy cholesterol levels is to take a blood test. For some people, their only alert to their high cholesterol comes from experiencing a major health concern, like a stroke or heart attack. Before these events there are often warning signs like chest pain, trouble breathing, or dizziness, but they occur too close to the event to begin preventative measures.
What Are the Treatment Options for High Cholesterol?
Is Veganism the Answer?
Given that cholesterol is consumed through animal products, it stands to reason that a smart way to lower bad cholesterol or avoid it entirely is by following a vegan diet. While it’s true that vegans don’t consume cholesterol because their diet is plant based, veganism still doesn’t necessarily guarantee the person following this diet won’t struggle with high cholesterol. More than just diet influences cholesterol levels. As mentioned, genetics play a role, as well as factors like age and lifestyle. Vegans can suffer from high cholesterol the same as anyone; in fact, when it comes to struggling with cholesterol due solely to diet, vegans are often lacking in both bad and good cholesterol levels (and a decrease in good cholesterol leads to its own health issues).
Will Diet Solve Cholesterol Issues?
However, diet is a highly important way to monitor and regulate your cholesterol, whether because you’ve had a cholesterol scare or because you want to proactively reduce your risk. You should decrease your intake of LDL cholesterol raising foods like alcohol, salt, processed foods, animal products, and bad fats like trans fats and saturated fats. You should also incorporate healthy ingredients into your diet, like soluble fiber, lean protein, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Cholesterol Supplements Are the Solution
Along with watching what you eat, you can receive the beneficial ingredients you need with supplements to lower cholesterol. Instead of worrying about whether you’re getting enough of the right ingredients from your diet alone, cholesterol-lowering supplements do the calculations for you. Packed with omega-3s and other fatty acids, a daily dose can work wonders at helping lower your VLDL and LDL cholesterol while even giving you a light dosage of good HDL cholesterol. Paired with a healthy diet and smart lifestyle choices, cholesterol supplements can make a great change in your health.
High cholesterol is a huge health concern from which no one is immune. Those with predisposed factors and poor diet are especially at risk of facing cholesterol-induced health issues. The best way to regulate your cholesterol levels is by pairing cholesterol-lowering supplements with a nutritious diet free of high cholesterol foods. If you or a loved one resonate with this information, it’s not too late to make a change!