Health consequences of raised cholesterol

Atheromatous plaque

The formation of atheromatous plaque is caused by bad cholesterol (LDL) and is called atherosclerosis.
  • Atheroma (fat plaques) caused by excess cholesterol occurs insidiously over years and can lead to the obstruction of one or more arteries.
  • These fat plaques accumulate on the inner wall of the arteries causing a thickening, hardening and a reduction in their elasticity.
  • Atheromatous plaque is made up of blood cells and bad cholesterol.

Effects on health

Atheromatous plaques affect arteries, specifically those supplying the heart, the brain and the lower limbs.

According to where the artery is blocked, there can be:

A cerebral vascular accident (Stroke)

The atheromatous plaque is formed in the carotids, these arteries located in the neck.

  • The blocking of this artery reduces the blood flow supplying the brain, causing faintness or loss of consciousness.
  • A cerebral vascular accident happens when an artery is completely blocked, and oxygen can no longer get to the brain.

Angina pectoris or a heart attack

Atheromatous plaque builds up in the arteries supplying the heart. It causes narrowing which, leads to a decrease in oxygen to a part of the heart. This partial blocking of the artery causes angina. When there is a complete blockage it causes a heart attack (myocardial infarction).

Vascular supply to the lower extremities

When atheromatous plaque occurs in the arteries supplying the lower limbs it can cause;

  • Pain and difficulties in walking especially in the calfs or thighs, which can also occur at night and at rest.
  • At a more advanced stage, the blocked artery can cause gangrene leading to an amputation

Erection disorders

The formation of atheromatous plaque in the penile arteries can cause impotence, which is called erectile dysfunction.

What are the risk factors for atheromatous plaque production

Smoking, diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, hypertension, obesity, poor diet and hereditary factors.

It is essential to reduce these risk factors

  • Give up smoking
  • Check your blood-pressure
  • Treat your diabetes
  • Take regular exercise
  • Monitor your weight and if overweight, make lifestyle changes to loose weight.
  • Have your cholesterol levels regularly checked.
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