Cholesterol is a building block that plays a role in the composition of many cells and intracellular structures in the body and plays an important role in hormones and body functions. Cholesterol's duties include protecting the body against microbes under the skin, strengthening red blood cells and nerve tissues, and regulating the water balance in the body. It is very important to keep the cholesterol level at the required level for a healthy life.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all cells in your body. The human body produces three-quarters of its own cholesterol, which is around 1 gram per day. The main center of cholesterol production in the body is the liverur body. The human body produces three-quarters of its own cholesterol, which is around 1 gram per day. The main center of cholesterol production in the body is the liver. The liver provides about 70% of daily cholesterol production. The rest of the cholesterol produced in the body is made in the adrenal glands, small intestine, and reproductive organs. A quarter of cholesterol is obtained from animal foods such as egg yolk, cheese, and meat.
Cholesterol, which is responsible for cell durability, is an essential substance not only for health but also for life. Because even reproduction takes place through cholesterol. The sex hormones testosterone and estrogen cannot be produced without cholesterol.
What is Bad Cholesterol (LDL Cholesterol)?
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also called bad cholesterol, carries cholesterol and triglycerides (the type of fat the body uses for energy) to the arteries. If a person has a high level of LDL cholesterol, over time, a buildup called atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) occurs on the walls of the arteries. As a result, in some cases, a clot may be encountered by breaking up the debris. This can disrupt the blood flow to some organs, especially the heart. In such cases, if a blood clot blocks the arteries leading to the heart, there may be a risk of a heart attack. If this blood clot blocks a blood vessel to the brain, there is a risk of stroke. One of the problems that can be caused by high cholesterol is bile imbalance and the gallstones that develop as a result.
What is Good Cholesterol (HDL Cholesterol)?
High-density lipoprotein (HDL), also called good cholesterol, helps return bad cholesterol (LDL) to the liver so that it can be eliminated from the body. Thus, cholesterol plaques that will accumulate in the arteries are prevented.
What are the causes of high cholesterol (Hyperlipidemia)?
Hyperlipidemia may develop due to genetic reasons in the patient, as well as some other factors that may cause high cholesterol.
The causes of high cholesterol are:
- Smoking or exposure to cigarette smoke
- Overweight or obese,
- Bad eating habits (excessive consumption of foods containing saturated or trans fats),
- Excessive alcohol use
- Stress and excessive anxiety
- The use of certain medications such as beta-blockers, diuretics, contraceptives, and steroids.
- Multiple myeloma,
- Polycystic ovary syndrome,
- Chronic kidney disease,
- Diabetes (Diabetes),
- Metabolic syndrome,
- Sleep apnea,
- Medical problems such as HIV can also cause high cholesterol.
What are the symptoms of Cholesterol?
High cholesterol manifests itself in some symptoms. The most common high cholesterol symptoms can be listed as follows:
- Yellow oil glands on the face and around the eyes,
- Weakness and fatigue,
- Numbness, pain in the legs and feet,
- Chest pain,
- Delayed healing of wounds,
- Pale appearance of the skin,
- Shortness of breath,
- Fat accumulation under the skin,
- Spotting on the skin,
- Bruising in some parts of the body
How is high cholesterol (Hyperlipidemia) treated? What are the treatment methods?
Before starting treatment for high cholesterol, secondary causes of hyperlipidemia such as hypothyroidism, which may lead to high cholesterol, should be reviewed, and primary treatment for these diseases should be performed.
Cholesterol elevation treatment is divided into two parts: lifestyle changes and drug therapy.
1- Lifestyle changes
Healthy eating and diet
Almost all of the dietary cholesterol is taken from foods and fats of animal origin. Therefore, the first target in the diet;
- Reducing red meat consumption,
- Preferring skinless meat parts of animals such as turkey and chicken,
- Fish species rich in beneficial oils such as omega-3 should be consumed.
- Grilled or boiling should be preferred to frying.
- Processed foods rich in saturated fatty acids, such as sausage, salami, and ham, should not be consumed.
It is aimed at keeping the amount of cholesterol consumed daily below 300 mg. Consumption of legumes such as beans, chickpeas, and lentils, which do not contain cholesterol but have high protein content, should not be neglected so that there is no deficiency in the protein intake necessary for our body by reducing animal foods.
There has been a lot of discussion lately about certain foods, such as dairy products, eggs, and butter. For healthy individuals, these foods can be consumed in reasonable amounts, provided that they are unprocessed and natural, without increasing their daily total cholesterol consumption. Low-fat cheese and yogurt types can be preferred.
In patients with cardiovascular disease, it would be correct to apply a stricter diet low in cholesterol. Processed margarines are rich in saturated fatty acids and should not be consumed if possible. It should be preferred to consume vegetable and liquid oils rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids containing beneficial fatty acids, such as olive oil. In fact, one of the most important points is the presence of trans fatty acids, which are very harmful for our body, in fast-food-style foods or in many processed and packaged products. Since eating habits start at a young age, the consumption of these products, which have no nutritional value, should be reduced. Priority and emphasis should be given to the consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits, which are rich in vitamins and minerals, high in fiber, and have nutritional value.
A sedentary lifestyle is one of the most important risk factors that increases the risk of heart attack and the amount of cholesterol. Regular physical activity causes improvement in cholesterol parameters; it increases the HDL value while decreasing the LDL value. Exercises that work the muscles, such as walking, cycling, swimming, and dancing, are recommended for heart health because they accelerate the heartbeat, reduce bad fats in the body, reduce insulin resistance, regulate blood sugar, and help to lose weight. 2 and a half to 5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week are recommended.
Exercise should be done not only by healthy individuals, but also by patients with cardiovascular disease.
Regular physical activity;
- Having a heart attack,
- Stent inserted in the heart vessel,
- It has been shown to increase cardiac performance over time and prolong life in patients who have undergone a bypass (open heart surgery) operation or have heart failure.
- These patients should consult with a cardiologist before exercising and start exercising depending on the appropriate program prepared by their physician.
- Quitting smoking,
- Reducing or stopping alcohol consumption
- Avoidance of stressors
- Establishing a healthy sleep pattern is an important factor in the fight against cholesterol.
- With all these protective measures, which we have gathered under the heading of lifestyle change, only a 15-20% reduction in bad cholesterol levels can be achieved.
2- Drug therapy
In healthy individuals, if the blood cholesterol levels are still high despite the above-mentioned precautions and lifestyle changes, drug therapy is started. However, if there is an existing cardiovascular disease that has affected the arteries, cholesterol drugs are used regardless of the blood cholesterol level (even if the cholesterol value is low).
The purpose of using cholesterol drugs is not only to lower blood cholesterol levels but also to benefit from scientifically proven beneficial effects such as protecting heart health, preventing or reversing the progression of arterial occlusion, and prolonging life.
Hyperlipidemia is an important disease that must be treated. Fasting lipid values of all patients should be measured at certain intervals, and the determined values should be checked by a cardiologist. Lifestyle changes are the first step in treatment. If adequate results are not achieved with lifestyle changes, medical treatment is initiated. Drugs used in medical treatment are safe. The treatment decision, the drugs to be used, and the follow-up of the treatment must be made by a cardiologist.
Does cholesterol affect sexuality?
When we say sexuality, two things are understood: The first is libido, which we call sexual desire. It is important for both men and women. Secondly, with the hardening of the penis in men, changes in the genitals in women come to mind.
Cholesterol also plays a role in penile erection problems. The hardening and lengthening of the penis, which we call an erection, occurs as a result of the relaxation of the penile vessels and the filling of blood into the penile body as a result of a sexual stimulus. Some chemicals and hormones secreted from our body provide this relaxation. Cholesterol, on the other hand, accumulates in the vessels and causes the formation of plaques, which we call atherosclerosis. Just as these plaques clog the heart and brain vessels, they also cause blockages in the vessels of the genital area and the vessels of the penis, preventing blood flow. For this reason, penile vessels cannot relax, there is no blood filling, and an erection problem develops.
High cholesterol also reduces the production of testosterone, which we call the male hormone. The most important source of testosterone is the testicles. Plaques formed in testicular vessels, namely arteriosclerosis, reduce the formation and secretion of testosterone in the cells.
High cholesterol can also reduce male sexual desire, i.e., libido, by reducing the release of testosterone and in other ways.
Women who complain of sexual dysfunction should also be investigated for an underlying medical problem. There are opinions that high cholesterol in women causes painful sexual intercourse by reducing the lubrication and secretion in the genitals and vagina.