Cholesterol and Blood Pressure: What’s the Link?

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Dr. Pakhi Sharma, MBBSGeneral Physician, 6+ Years
Published On : 28-Jun-2022Read Time : 7 minutes
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Cholesterol is bad for your health: Myth or Fact? It is not entirely true as not all types of cholesterol are bad. Some types of cholesterol are essential for your body to perform specific functions such as synthesis of certain hormones. At the same time it is important to know what  type of cholesterol is harmful to your body and how it can lead to certain health complications such as high blood pressure and heart diseases. Here, let’s focus on the link between high cholesterol and blood pressure. Read on to know more about how your cholesterol levels can impact blood pressure.

Contents:
  • What is High Cholesterol?
  • What Causes High Cholesterol?
  • What are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?
  • How is High Cholesterol Detected?
  • What is the Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Pressure?
  • How to Manage High Cholesterol and Reduce the Risk of Hypertension?
  • When to See a Doctor?
  • Don’t Have Time To Read?
  • FAQs

What is High Cholesterol?

High cholesterol is when your blood has too much of a type of lipid substance called cholesterol. It is a waxy, fat-like substance that your liver produces naturally. You will also get some of it from the food you consume. It is found in every cell of your body and is essential for many life-sustaining functions like development of cell membranes, the production of certain hormones and vitamin D. High cholesterol is when the cholesterol levels in your blood are higher than normal.

Cholesterol does not dissolve in water and therefore requires certain proteins or its transportation through your blood. For this purpose your liver produces certain lipoproteins. The two major forms of lipoproteins are low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good” cholesterol). Too much LDL in the body contributes to the build-up of fatty plaques that can block your blood vessels and HDL on the other hand is beneficial and plays a role in transferring excess cholesterol back to the liver, where it is broken down and excreted out of the body.

What Causes High Cholesterol?

Several factors that can contribute to high cholesterol include

Family History:

Those who have a family history of high cholesterol are at a higher risk of developing the condition.

Advancing Age:

The risk of developing high cholesterol increases with age due to age-related metabolic changes in the body.

Physical Inactivity:

Leading a sedentary lifestyle can increase the levels of LDL and lower the levels of HDL in the body. This can cause a rise in cholesterol levels.

Diet:

Having a diet that is high in saturated fat and trans fat can lead to high cholesterol levels. Reducing the intake of these unhealthy fats can improve the levels of HDL (good cholesterol)that is beneficial for the body and reduce the level of LDL (bad cholesterol) that can lead to cholesterol build-up in your blood. 

Being Overweight or Obese:

Being overweight or obese increases your chances of developing high cholesterol by raising your triglyceride levels. Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater can put you at risk of high cholesterol.

Smoking:

Smoking can increase your LDL levels and lower your HDL levels. Long term smoking can damage the cells that line your blood vessels, causing thickening and narrowing of your blood vessels. Further studies have found that a compound called acrolein that is found in cigarette smoke can impact your cholesterol levels. 

Certain Medical Conditions:

Certain chronic health conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease or thyroid problems can lead to an increase in LDL cholesterol.

What are the Symptoms of High Cholesterol?

High cholesterol does not show any symptoms until it leads to complications such as a heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol levels are usually detected through a blood test. You can perform a simple test called the “lipid profile” to get your cholesterol levels checked.

How is High Cholesterol Detected?

A cholesterol test or screening checks for the levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein), HDL (high-density lipoprotein), triglycerides (a type of fat that your body uses for energy) and total cholesterol (the total cholesterol in the body based on your LDL, HDL and triglyceride numbers).

Readings

Desirable Cholesterol Levels 

Total Cholesterol

Less than 200 mg/dL

LDL (low-density lipoproteins)

Less than 100 mg/dL

HDL (high-density lipoproteins)

Greater than or equal to 60 mg/dL

Triglycerides

Less than 150 mg/dL

Knowing your cholesterol levels are important as it can increase your risk of developing certain chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and heart diseases. Let’s take a deeper look into how your cholesterol levels are linked to blood pressure

What is the Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Pressure?

When excess cholesterol builds up in your bloodstream, fatty deposits or plaque tends to get deposited along your artery walls (atherosclerosis). This can make your arteries stiff and narrow. Narrowing of your arteries increases the resistance within them, interrupting the blood flow. Your blood pressure rises as it tries to flow past the resistance. As your arteries become narrow, it also puts an extra load on your heart increasing the risk of complications such as a heart attack or stroke.

How to Manage High Cholesterol and Reduce the Risk of Hypertension?

Have a Healthy Diet

A few healthy changes to your diet can help manage cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart diseases. While choosing a diet to manage high cholesterol levels, make sure that you avoid foods that are high in saturated fat and trans fat. With regular consumption, these unhealthy fats  can raise your overall cholesterol to unhealthy levels. You can include foods that are rich in protein, fibre and omega-3 fatty acids in your daily diet as they help reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the bloodstream.

Be More Active

Staying active and exercising regularly is a smart way to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Regular moderate to high-intensity physical activities can help raise the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or the "good" cholesterol and lower the levels of low-density lipoprotein known as the “bad” cholesterol. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week or opt for high-intensity aerobic activities 20 minutes a day for three times a week.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Did you know that carrying even a few extra pounds can contribute to high cholesterol levels? Yes! Therefore maintaining a healthy weight is necessary to keep your cholesterol levels in check. Making healthy changes to your diet, and keeping a check on your calorie intake and portion sizes can help you avoid weight gain. Make sure to avoid unhealthy fats and choose foods high in fibre and proteins. Also, stay active and  exercise regularly to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. These measures will help you stay fit and maintain a healthy weight.

Limit Alcohol Consumption & Quit smoking

Drinking too much alcohol is known to elevate the triglyceride (a type of fat found in the body that is converted into calories) levels in the body that increases the risk of cholesterol build-up in the arteries. Smoking is known to cause considerable damage to your blood vessels over time and it can also lower the levels of HDL which can increase the cholesterol levels and put you at a higher risk of heart diseases. Therefore in order to keep a check on your cholesterol levels, make sure to limit your alcohol consumption and avoid or quit smoking.

Take Appropriate Medications

Sometimes healthy lifestyle changes aren't enough to lower cholesterol levels. In such cases, your doctor may recommend certain medications. The choice of medication or combination of medications will depend upon your personal risk factors, age, your overall health and possible side effects of the drugs. Some of the commonly used drugs include statins, bile-acid-binding resins, cholesterol absorption inhibitors, bempedoic acid and PCSK9 inhibitors. In case of high triglyceride levels, your doctor may also prescribe fibrates, niacin, and omega-3 fatty acid supplements. These medications along with appropriate  lifestyle changes can effectively keep your cholesterol levels in check.

When to See a Doctor?

As high cholesterol levels do not show symptoms until it leads to certain complications such as heart diseases, it is essential that you get yourself screened at regular intervals. Young adults can get their cholesterol levels checked at least once or twice before the age of 21. Cholesterol screenings can be done every 2 to 3 years for men aged 45 to 65 and women aged 55 to 65. For those who are at a higher risk of developing high cholesterol and those who are above the age of 65, a blood test can be performed once annually. 

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • High cholesterol is when your blood has too much of a type of lipid substance called cholesterol. It is a waxy, fat-like substance that your liver produces naturally. You will also get some of it from the food you consume.
  • The two major forms of lipoproteins are low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL or good cholesterol). 
  • Too much LDL in the body contributes to the build-up of fatty plaques that can block your blood vessels and HDL on the other hand is beneficial and plays a role in transferring excess cholesterol back to the liver.
  • Family history, age, an inactive lifestyle, an unhealthy diet and certain chronic medical conditions such as diabetes can contribute to high cholesterol levels.
  • High cholesterol does not show any symptoms until it leads to complications such as a heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol levels are usually detected through a blood test. You can perform a simple test called the “lipid profile” to get your cholesterol levels checked.
  • With high cholesterol levels, plaque tends to get deposited along your artery walls (atherosclerosis). This can make your arteries stiff and narrow. Narrowing of your arteries increases the resistance within them, interrupting the blood flow. Your blood pressure rises as it tries to flow past the resistance.
  • As your arteries become narrow, it also puts an extra load on your heart increasing the risk of complications such as a heart attack or stroke.
  • You can manage high cholesterol and avoid the risk of high blood pressure or heart diseases by adopting ew measures such as, having a healthy diet, staying physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol and quitting smoking and taking appropriate medications as prescribed.
  • Use the Phable Care App to consult India's leading cardiologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate BP monitors and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Hypertension Management Program which provides ‎360º care. Let's treat low/high blood pressure problems together. 

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