Hypercholesterolemia, a condition characterized by high cholesterol levels, is generally caused by multiple factors related to dietary and lifestyle habits. While high cholesterol can easily be spotted with a proper blood test, a lot of people can live with it without even knowing. What surprising things didn't you know about high cholesterol?
1. Hypercholesterolemia can be hereditary
Familial hypercholesterolemia is caused by a gene mutation, which causes difficulties in the body’s efficiency of recycling bad cholesterol. People who have hereditary hypercholesterolemia are born with high levels of bad cholesterol which, as most of you know, rises with age. Those born with such high levels will only experience an increase as time passes.
In order to diagnose familial hypercholesterolemia, patients take a blood test, while doctors also inquire about their family history. Some people don't show any symptoms of this condition, while others develop more unusual symptoms, such as cholesterol deposits around the eyes, or in the Achilles tendons.
If a person is diagnosed with familial hypercholesterolemia, all first-degree relatives should get tested. The same thing applies if a family member suffers from a heart attack — this could be a consequence of high cholesterol.
2. Hypercholesterolemia has been linked to testicular cancer
Back in 2005, a Swedish study revealed that men with cholesterol exceeding the level of 270 mg/dL and above were more exposed to the possibility of developing testicular cancer compared to those with a lower cholesterol level. However, it’s important to take into account that a series of other factors could contribute to the link between hypercholesterolemia and testicular cancer.
3. Hypercholesterolemia is really easy to develop
The majority of the cells in the human body are capable of producing cholesterol, but the liver can easily supply cholesterol to those cells that don’t produce their own. The liver also has the capacity of recycling excess cholesterol.
Even without food, the body produces about a gram of cholesterol, which is enough to help the digestive system work properly. When the liver doesn’t function within normal parameters, you can develop hypercholesterolemia, which is also a consequence of eating too many trans and saturated fats.
4. Children can also develop hypercholesterolemia
While there are many adults that have elevated cholesterol levels as a consequence of an improper diet and the lack of exercise, there are also children who develop hypercholesterolemia, mostly as a consequence of gene mutation.
Hypercholesterolemia in children is typically passed on from parent to child, but it can also be caused by obesity, which has recently been on the rise even among the younger population. However, hypercholesterolemia is much rarer in children than it is in adults. Children who inherit this condition are more likely to end up having heart problems.
When a child has been diagnosed with hypercholesterolemia, all necessary measures must be taken to reduce cholesterol levels, including more exercises, a healthier diet, and also medication. For a child to be safe against hypercholesterolemia, they must consume an average of five fruit and vegetable servings each day, as well as a series of other goods that have low cholesterol and saturated fats.
5. Treatment for hypercholesterolemia can last a lifetime
When a person is diagnosed with hypercholesterolemia, lifestyle changes will always be the go-to solution suggest by doctors. Sadly, because there are so many dietary habits that can lead to high cholesterol levels, paying close attention to the foods you eat and the amount of exercise you do becomes a lifetime habit.
The lifestyle changes that so many doctors and medical articles talk about imply avoiding all the foods that can raise the cholesterol level, require an understanding of what good and bad cholesterol is. For example, saturated fats are rich in bad cholesterol, while fruits that are rich in fibers (such as prunes or apples) raise the body’s levels of good cholesterol.
6. A hypercholesterolemia diet is about replacing, not eliminating
There is the preconception that “diet” automatically means avoiding a lot of foods that are tasty. However, people who suffer from hypercholesterolemia have a lot of options to replace foods high in bad cholesterol, with those that raise good cholesterol levels. Some suggestions are:
- Instead of using sunflower oil, use olive oil. While it’s not recommended for frying, olive oil has amazing health benefits when used to season a salad, for example. Olive oil is naturally anti-inflammatory, and can reduce the levels of bad cholesterol.
- Don’t give up grain, just replace it with whole grain. Cereals, wild rice, or bran: these are examples of whole grain that can boost the good cholesterol levels in your body, because they are rich in soluble fiber.
- Replace pork with fatty fish. A healthy diet isn’t about eliminating meat out of your life forever. Instead, consume as much fatty fish as you can, because omega-3 fatty acids that are found in fish are really good for your body. Some fish examples include sardines, albacore tuna, or salmon.
- Replace whisky with red wine. A couple of glasses of red wine can raise good cholesterol levels, and also reduces the risk of heart disease.
It’s important that every person consults their doctor before randomly starting any diets for lowering cholesterol levels, especially if you are taking any medication. While dietary changes are always recommended, some foods may interact with different medication. With the help of your doctor, you can develop an efficient method of treatment for taking out the bad cholesterol, and ingesting some of the good.