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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Symptoms of High Cholesterol & Does High Cholesterol Really Lead to Heart Disease?

Before we get into the actual 'symptoms' of high cholesterol, let's first note that there are two types. 

  • HDL or "High-Density-Lipoprotein" AKA the Good Cholesterol.
  • LDL or "Low-Density-Lipoprotein AKA the BAD Cholesterol.
Also, let's just go over what Cholesterol is and isn't.

Cholesterol IS.
  1. A fat like chemical.
  2. An organic molecule (it's natural, found in our cells, body, in food etc).
  3. It is a ''sterol''; a steroid alcohol, and typically used to convert into steroid hormones within our body or whatever culture or species they are being studied in.
Cholesterol ISN'T.
  1. A plaque, blood cell or otherwise, that clogs our arteries.
  2. A protein in the traditional sense.
  3. A useless chemical.
Cholesterol is needed for every cell in our body to cooperate properly, and is necessary for membrane fluidity, nerve cell function etc. Cholesterol also has a number of specific functions.

  • The production of adrenal steroids relies on Cholesterol; that includes cortisol, ACTH, DHEA, Pregnenolone etc. Men need some cholesterol to produce sex hormones as well as stress hormones. Women need cholesterol for these processis as well.
  • Cholesterol is needed for energy production, and is utilized to manufacture ATP, a source of energy, and also known as adenosine-triphosphate.
  • Cholesterol may help wounds heal, particularly the ''good'' cholesterol, by helping to seal in the other nutrients and cofactors which promote clotting at the site of the wound.

Given these facts, high cholesterol is unlikely to produce noticeable symptoms. However, given it's role in adrenal hormone synthesis, if there are symptoms that appear as a result of high cholesterol; the bad kind, then they would be related to the actions in which cholesterol is needed to perform, as opposed to the mere coincidence of where it accumulates. 

What that means, is that cholesterol most likely does not cause heart disease, but rather happens to be there in the vascular wall, when a heart attack occurs, because of poor utilization of the individual in question. When the body is not properly utilizing cholesterol, it appears ubiquitously in various blood vessels and organs, and arteries. 

Back to the original point, high cholesterol therefore, in itself, is not sufficient to cause heart attacks, heart disease, stroke etc - high cholesterol on the other hand is sufficient regardless of fast or low utilization, to cause symptoms that relate to hyperadrenalism or at least, Cortisol excess. That would include...

  1. Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  2. Anxiety (due to cortisol and adrenaline actions, after being converted from cholesterol).
  3.  Water Retention (and thus swelling in limbs; legs or hands)
  4. Bloating; due to the above mentioned water retention, which relates to sodium excess, or deficiency, in which is provoked by the hypercholesterolemic state.
  5. Fast Heart Rate (tachycardia); due to Cortisol once again, and it's actions on the heart muscle itself.
  6. Bowel issues; Constipation specifically, due to both cortisol release, and due to cholesterol itself clogging up the bowels by altering water flow.
  7. Visual changes; blurry vision, sensitivity to lights etc - due to again, adrenal hormone release alteration caused by cholesterol being consistently elevated.
  8. Insomnia - difficulty sleeping may be an early tell in people with high cholesterol; especially in those with an already existing psychological issue or in those who are under persistent Stress.
  9. Abnormally fast wound healing, or abnormally slow wound healing less frequently. 
  10. Irritability; due to agitation of the nerve cells in and around adrenal cortex, and in the brain, Cortisol actions influence blood flow and blood-brain-barrier permeability, as well as nerve sensitivity to external stimulus.
So knowing all this, we know that Cholesterols actions are rather indirect. How do we really go about making sure it is in the right range? I said ''right range'' because lowering cholesterol altogether is not the way to go.

What we should do, is increase the good cholesterol and decrease the bad. We don't want to abolish either one though, we don't need to practically eliminate all of even the bad cholesterol, after all there is some evidence we need even a little bit of that bad, ironically. 

Rethinking dietary cholesterol. (Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2012 Mar;15(2):117-21)

Energy Requirements for Fatty Acid Synthesis (Bryan Krantz: University of California, Berkeley
MCB 102, Spring 2008, Metabolism Lecture 14
Reading: Ch. 21 of Principles of Biochemistry, “Lipid Biosynthesis.”)
. Making and storing fat and retrieving it to supply energy. (Perelman School of Medicine; University of Pennsylvania)
Cholesterol: where science and public health policy intersect. (Nutr Rev. 2010 Jun;68(6):355-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00294.x.)
Cholesterol: Friend Or Foe? (Weston A. Price Foundation)

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