4 Habits that Make Your Cholesterol Problem Worse

04 June, 2020
If you are 20 or older, you should measure your cholesterol at least once every five years. A blood test called a lipid panel can measure your cholesterol levels.

The problem with cholesterol is that it’s an invisible health threat. You can have high cholesterol and not realize it until you do a routine analysis or suffer the consequences. How can you have a cholesterol problem if you don’t eat too much fat, sausages, or red meat in your diet?

There are other factors that you may not be aware of that influence your cholesterol level. In this article, you’ll find out what mistakes you may be making without realizing it and what’s causing your cholesterol to rise. Read on to find out more and improve your cholesterol problem!

What is cholesterol?

A graphic showing a cholesterol problem where it builds up in the veins and blocks them.
Your body needs cholesterol, but in excess it builds up in your veins and triggers cardiovascular problems.

Cholesterol is a waxy, soft fatty substance found anywhere in the body and in the blood. It has many useful functions that contribute to good health. For example, it helps cells function properly and plays a role in the production of certain hormones.

However, too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to a higher risk of myocardial infarction or stroke.

Read also: 5 Ways to Reduce Cholesterol in Your Breakfast

How are your cholesterol levels measured?

If you are 20 or older, you should measure your cholesterol at least once every five years. A blood test, called a lipid panel, can measure your cholesterol levels. The test provides information on:

  • Total cholesterol: The total amount of cholesterol in your blood. It includes both types: Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, cholesterol.
  • Bad cholesterol (LDL): This is the one that builds up in your arteries and clogs them.
  • Good Cholesterol (HDL): This helps remove cholesterol from your arteries.

Habits that could worsen your cholesterol problem

1. Stress

Woman with head in hands from stress.
Some studies have related stress hormones with an increase in cholesterol in the blood.

Stress is a very common disease these days and, if it’s sustained over the long term, it can cause serious consequences in our body. However, does it also cause high cholesterol?

Stress can raise your blood pressure, cause insomnia, change of habits, and changes in your mental performance, as well as in your state of mind. Nevertheless, is it capable of raising cholesterol in the human body?

In this regard, a study observed that mental and emotional stress increased cholesterol values ​​by 11% in healthy men compared to the control group. They also found a link between cholesterol and cortisol, the stress hormone, which may be key to the relationship between cardiovascular disease and dyslipidemia.

2. Alcohol

When it comes to cholesterol, alcohol consumption is a matter of balance. For one thing, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol has been shown to improve “good” cholesterol levels and has been linked to a reduced incidence of heart disease.

On the other hand, drinking too much alcohol can have a negative effect on blood lipid profiles and, ultimately, on heart health. As you can see, it’s about consuming alcohol in moderation to avoid harming your health.

3. Avoid tobacco if you have a cholesterol problem

A cigarette between two fingers.
Tobacco, in addition to increasing blood cholesterol levels, predisposes you to other cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses.

Smoking affects the cardiovascular system in several ways, including by reducing oxygen and causing wear and tear on the heart. The reason these diseases appear or increase is that nicotine can increase platelet aggregation, cholesterol, and triglycerides in the blood.

Carbon monoxide also increases blood cholesterol, among other damaging effects. For this reason, smoking ‘light‘ cigarettes doesn’t reduce the risk of disease, since the smoker usually inhales more smoke to compensate for the lower dose of nicotine, which increases carbon monoxide, and the subsequent problems it causes.

You might be interested in reading: Five Positive Changes You’ll Notice after You Quit Smoking

4. Oral contraceptives

Contraceptives have several side effects on women’s health, and one of them may be an increase in cholesterol. However, not all contraceptives produce the same effects, nor are all types of cholesterol bad.

Gestagen-based contraceptives have only one type of hormone and are usually produced as a mini pill. This type of contraceptive has many advantages and is very effective. Additionally, it can be used during breastfeeding.

But unfortunately, it has a hypercholesterolemic effect. This pill often increases LDL or bad  cholesterol and reduces HDL or good cholesterol. Therefore, if you choose this type of contraceptive, it’s essential that you have control tests every few months.

If you have a cholesterol problem, remember …

For your body to function well, you need a balance between the two types of cholesterol, so that you can avoid cardiovascular problems caused by high cholesterol levels. A balanced diet and physical exercise are essential for you to live healthily and improve your cholesterol problem.

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