Symptoms of High Cholesterol in Women | Helpful Tips You Need to Know

When someone talks about high cholesterol levels, the first thing that you may relate it to is heart problems.

Symptoms of High Cholesterol in WomenBut how does having a high cholesterol level affect your heart and blood vessels, and what are the symptoms?

How Cholesterol Works In Your Body

The first thing that you need to know is that, there are several kinds of cholesterols in the body. Believe it or not, all of these are essential for survival, as they participate in several metabolic functions within the body.

For now, let's focus on the two main types of cholesterol, your HDL and LDL cholesterol. Your HDL and LDL are both lipoproteins that transport cholesterol within the body. They transport the cholesterol, which is needed for metabolic functions within the body.

HDL transports cholesterol to the cells and then brings back discarded cholesterol to the liver to be processed and eliminated. Your LDL functions the same way, by delivering cholesterol to different cell membranes.

However, they do not bring discarded cholesterol back to the liver. Instead, the discarded cholesterol is deposited on the walls of the arteries. These deposits build up and turns into plaque once acted upon by macrophages present in the blood.

An imbalance between your HDL and LDL cholesterol can lead to the development of certain complications. An elevated level of LDL cholesterol compared to HDL is what can increase your risk of developing heart disease and other complications.

Symptoms of High Cholesterol in Women

High cholesterol symptoms are the same for both men and women. There are no noticeable symptoms, unless you get a cholesterol test. You can feel healthy and even function normally with high cholesterol levels. The problem is that despite being symptom-free, you may still be at great risk to develop heart attack or stroke.

Symptoms of high cholesterol in women may only become apparent when a complication has already occurred and the symptoms manifested are of those of the disease.

Women under 45 years of age are less likely to develop high levels of cholesterol compared to men, because of the estrogen hormone which is a major hormone in pre-menopausal women. It's estrogen that can help regulate LDL cholesterol levels and increase HDL cholesterol.(1)

However, as women age and enter menopause, estrogen levels decreases. Also, even though estrogen can help regulate LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, women are still at risk in having high levels of triglycerides. This is a type of fat which in high levels can also increase your risk in developing cardiac problems.

What can increase your risk in having elevated cholesterol levels?

There are several things that can affect your cholesterol levels. These can include:

Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of activity, especially a lifestyle without exercise can contribute to the increase of your cholesterol levels. Less physical activity will lead to a decreased metabolism, which means your body is storing more fats within your body.

Having a regular exercise routine can help increase HDL activity within the body and help decrease cholesterol being deposited along your arteries. This is very important, especially for women who already are in the menopausal stage as it regulates cholesterol levels and helps promote strong bones and muscles.

Unhealthy diet: The food you eat nowadays play a major role in elevating your cholesterol levels. This is especially true with food products containing trans fat or hydrogenated fats.

These nasty artery-clogging fats are present in french fries, solid margarines, even in cookies and several processed food products. They can raise your LDL cholesterol levels and depress your HDL cholesterol.

Before you start planning a low fat diet however, know first that not all fats are unhealthy. Many fats aren't just healthy, but needed and essential for your survival.

Unsaturated fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are often found in plants and fish. They function in lowering LDL cholesterol as well as participate in several metabolic functions in the body.

Saturated fats were once thought to have played a role in increasing risk for heart disease. However, many recent studies have shown little or no connection to saturated fats and coronary problems. (2) Saturated fats can actually be good sources for certain vitamins and minerals.

Lifestyle: Smoking and alcohol drinking is no longer connected only to men. There are a lot of women nowadays that engage in smoking as well as excessive alcohol intake. You may already have heard that smoking can cause several complications, which includes increasing cholesterol levels.

Alcohol intake on the other hand is beneficial if you take it in moderation. However, excessive intake can result to several complications, including liver damage and elevated cholesterol levels.

Women and Cholesterol Drugs

There are several ways in which you can try to manage your cholesterol levels like exercise and modifications in your lifestyle and eating habits. If your cholesterol level gets out of hand, your doctor may prescribe medication.

However, taking cholesterol drugs should only be considered as a last resort. Also, you should try to know more about the medication before taking them.

Prescription statin drugs, like Lipitor, can produce numerous adverse effects in women. It is known to be more effective for middle aged men, but can cause more harm than good in women.

Before taking cholesterol drugs, always weight out the pros and cons. You want to be fully informed about the risks and dangers from any prescribed medications before taking them.

References:
(1) The Netherlands Journal of Medicine September 2011; 69(9):372-8
(2) "How does estrogen protect against heart disease?", Craig Weber, M.D. Updated August 11, 2008


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