What Does High Cholesterol Do to the Body?

Feb 07, 2024
What Does High Cholesterol Do to the Body?
It’s never too early or too late to protect your heart health. Managing cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other risk factors protects your heart from damage and contributes to a longer, healthier life.

Cholesterol is a crucial building block for cells in the body, making it essential to health. However, chronically elevated cholesterol levels can lead to serious health issues, particularly heart disease. 

The body only needs a small amount of cholesterol to function, and the liver makes what the body needs. Problems arise when cholesterol rises and remains elevated due to lifestyle changes, genetic predisposition, or both. 

The good news is there are many things you can do to lower it, and our team at Primary and Urgent Care South in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, and Warrior, Alabama, can help. Managing cholesterol levels is essential in taking care of your heart health.

The damaging effect of high cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body uses to make hormones, build and repair cells, absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and produce bile needed to digest fats. 

There are different types of cholesterol. One type, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), transports and deposits cholesterol throughout the body, contributing to fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Over time, these deposits accumulate, causing blood vessels to stiffen and narrow, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries, which paves the way for heart disease. 

Hardened cholesterol that lines blood vessel walls can break and block blood flow, causing a heart attack or stroke.

You can have a genetic predisposition for developing high cholesterol, but it's often the result of less healthy lifestyle choices, making it preventable and treatable. A healthy diet and regular exercise can go a long way in reducing high cholesterol. 

What you eat is the first line of defense

Your overall diet has a potent influence on your cholesterol levels. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and flaxseeds, can increase a beneficial type of cholesterol known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL). 

Incorporating more soluble fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can also lower the cholesterol you absorb into your bloodstream. Limiting your intake of saturated fats found in red meat and dairy products and avoiding the types of fats found in many processed foods is equally important.

Physical activity boosts heart health

Exercise plays a vital role in boosting heart health, acting as a powerful tool in combating heart disease. Engaging in regular physical activity strengthens the heart muscle and enhances its ability to pump blood efficiently throughout your body. 

This enhanced blood flow results in better oxygen delivery to tissues and organs, including the heart. Regular exercise also helps lower blood pressure, reducing bad LDL cholesterol levels and increasing good HDL cholesterol.

Additionally, it helps manage weight and decreases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, both risk factors for heart disease. 

The benefits extend beyond physical health, as exercise is also known to reduce stress and improve mental well-being, contributing to a healthier heart. By incorporating regular physical activity into your routine, you exercise your body, nurture your heart, and invest in a longer, healthier life.

Quit smoking

If you currently smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your heart health, and the benefits start after you stop. Once you quit smoking, HDL levels increase, and blood pressure and heart rate begin to recover.

Within three months of quitting, your blood circulation and lung function begin to improve, and within a year, you significantly cut your heart disease risk. Quitting smoking adds as many as ten years to your life expectancy. 

When lifestyle changes are not enough

Sometimes, lifestyle changes aren't enough to lower cholesterol. In these cases, medication might be necessary. Statins are the most common medication prescribed for lowering cholesterol. They block a substance your body needs to make cholesterol and may help reabsorb cholesterol built on your artery walls.

Regular check-ups

Regular check-ups are essential in managing cholesterol levels. These check-ups can help identify the issue early on and allow for adjustments in your lifestyle or medication before the problem becomes severe. 

Making steps consistently toward a healthier lifestyle can impact your cholesterol levels and overall heart health. We’re here to help you keep your heart healthy and strong. To learn more, call us to request an appointment with a Primary and Urgent Care South provider. We can help guide you to a healthier heart and healthier you!