High Cholesterol

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Back in 2004, a diagnosis of high cholesterol came and there a feeling that it would inevitably change my way of living, but unfortunately nothing was done at the time. Having understood the ramifications of high cholesterol, you would think that there would be a need to apprehend the dynamics of it and how to address the problem; especially after being diagnosed with it but minimal effort was put into seeking ways to change how it would in turn affect my health. Reading up on high cholesterol online, in book literature and information from my doctor, much was provided to me regarding how to address it and live my life to try to maintain the level that up until that point; it had gotten too. 

Cholesterol itself is a substance that is found in fats in the bloodstream. The body needs cholesterol to function properly. Cholesterol is needed to produce vitamin D, which the body need. Cholesterol becomes an issue when over a "period of years, extra cholesterol and fat circulating in the blood build up in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. This buildup makes the arteries narrower and narrower, and as a result less blood gets to the heart. Blood carries oxygen to the heart and when blood supply is cut off, this results in several complications including heart attacks and strokes (NHLBI 108). This was news to me as my knowledge of cholesterol at the time the diagnosis came was minimal. So, what was there to do to effectively aid myself in lowering my cholesterol with this diagnosis?

It was important at that point for an understanding of the differences in good versus bad cholesterol. In trying to educate me by using my health history, the doctor's office provided some literature on the differences. LDL Cholesterol is cholesterol that builds up in the arteries of the heart and brain and forms the deposits. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. is that it is simply enormous amounts of fat that build up in the walls of the artery. This is not the entire truth. LDL cholesterol comes from a variety of unhealthy foods that humans consume on a daily basis. It is often referred to as "bad cholesterol, because too much LDL in the blood can lead to cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries" (NHLBI 108).  LDL cholesterol is not necessarily bad as has been thought but becomes a problem when there is too much in the bloodstream. The good cholesterol or HDL is what we all should be striving to have. While HDL is the type of cholesterol one should be striving for, an increase in this type of cholesterol also can increase one’s prevalence of getting heart disease. A year following my diagnosis, knowledge came to me regarding my family history as my biological father returned to my life. He informed me that his side of the family had a heart disease prominence and this in turn would lead me to find out what could be done to reduce my cholesterol levels and get myself on a healthy routine. 

Eating certain foods has been shown to have benefits to cholesterol levels. Foods high in fiber are often suggested to lower one’s cholesterol levels. Fiber is defined as substance found only in plants and grains and there are two types: insoluble and soluble. Soluble fiber benefits the cardiovascular system, while insoluble fiber is key to the digestive system in that it maintains regularity within the digestive tract. Different combinations of fiber incorporated into one’s diet have been proven to have a pivotal effect on the body. Physicians and nurses will often question their patients on the various types of foods they are consuming to gain a better understanding of how they can help them in their search to drop their cholesterol levels (Ward 303). Immediately, there was a grasping that an adoption of foods high in fiber was necessary if my cholesterol levels were to drop. 

In seeking to learn more about how to lower my own cholesterol levels and prevent any incident of heart disease, more information came to light about the prevalence of risks associated with high cholesterol levels of individuals in the United States. Eating unhealthy foods can increase one's risk of developing other diseases in addition to heart disease such as hypertension. Certain foods that contain unsaturated fats have been shown to reduce the risk of certain diseases such as heart disease, several different forms of cancer and diabetes but studies have not been conclusive on this by many esteemed organizations such as the World Health Organization, and the World Cancer Research Fund (Lunn 180). Hypertension is essentially high blood pressure and it often accompanies individuals who have diabetes or high cholesterol. After reading up on high cholesterol, there were questions that still lingered in my mind such as were there any symptoms associated with high cholesterol and how do you maintain the cholesterol levels in the body? Knowing that there was potential for a development of heart disease in my body due to genetics, there was still much for me to learn about the topic. 

One food that has been particularly debated as to whether one with high cholesterol should eat is eggs. When advising patients in how to lower their cholesterol levels, physicians suggest that they incorporate them into a varied diet that is low in saturated fat in addition to cardio-protective foods such as fish, fruits and vegetables. Much research has varied with inconclusive criteria specifying whether or not eggs are good or bad for a person with high cholesterol levels (Natoli 106). My egg consumption would have to be minimized as much as possible given the inconclusive results of whether eggs are good or not for individuals with high cholesterol levels. 

While the article found did not note that eggs were necessarily bad to eat, there was reason to believe that because of the fat content associated with eggs, that a nominal consumption of them would be adequate to decrease my risk of developing heart disease. An adoption of fiber rich foods in addition to protein rich foods would have to be implemented into my daily regimen as well. Fruits such as prunes, pears, mangoes, raspberries and strawberries were also noted as being positive sources of fiber. An incorporation of these into my 3 meals a day would be crucial.

After answering the question regarding foods to eat to decrease cholesterol levels, there was still the question of what one feels when they have high cholesterol. Can one feel that there are deposits in their arteries? Surveys performed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes that one cannot necessarily know that they have high cholesterol levels. In multiple screening studies in 2005, 2007 and 2009, individuals noted that they did not feel anything in particular regarding their blood cholesterol levels. A series of questions was asked such as “have you ever had your blood cholesterol checked” and “how long has it been since you last had your blood cholesterol checked?” (Fang 697). While the respondents’ answers varied, it became evident that symptoms of high cholesterol were minimal, unlike other diseases where there is shortness of breath, nausea and other complications. 

The CDC stated that "early detection of high blood cholesterol through screening is the first important step to treatment and reducing the risk for heart attack and stroke" (Fang 700). My doctor informed me about certain drugs such as Lipitor and Zocor for lowering cholesterol levels when the diagnosis came in 2004. After gaining a better understanding of high cholesterol and how to deal with my diagnosis, it became clear that with four kids, a wife and being 40 years old that understanding the need for getting my cholesterol levels checked was essential to my peace of mind and wellbeing. There would be no more putting off for tomorrow what could be done today regarding a proper diet, and more devotion to my health.

Works Cited

Fang, Jing, Carma Ayala, Fleetwood Loustalot, and Shifan Dai. “Prevalence of Cholesterol Screening and High Blood Cholesterol Among Adults - United States, 2005, 2007, and 2009.” MMWR: Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report 61.35 (2012): 697-702. EBSCOhost. Web. 11 Mar. 2013.

Lunn, J, and H E. Theobald. “The health effects of dietary unsaturated fatty acids.” British Nutrition Foundation Nutrition Bulletin 1 Sept. 2006: 178-224. CINAHL Plus. Web. 11 Mar. 2013.

Natoli, Sharon, Tania Markovic, David Lim, Manny Noakes, Karam Kostner. “Unscrambling the research: Eggs, serum cholesterol and coronary heart disease.” Nutrition & Dietetics 2007: 105–111. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Mar. 2013.

NHLBI. “High Blood Cholesterol.” Nutrition in Clinical Care 1 Oct. 2003: 108-114. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Mar. 2013.

Ward, H. A., R. Keogh, M Lentjes, R. N. Luben, N. J. Wareham, K.T. Khaw. “Fibre intake in relation to serum total cholesterol levels and CHD risk: a comparison of dietary assessment methods.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2012: 296-304. ProQuest Central. Web. 11 Mar. 2013.