Generally, physicians, dietitians and nutritionists commit towards controlling various health issues through a well-planned meal routine and physical activity. Exclusions always exist and one such is hypercholesterolemia that is characterized by extremely high cholesterol numbers despite regular exercise and a proper diet. Strange, isn’t it?
Not a Clean Gene
Genes define our lives and when some of them are faulty we might become victims of certain diseases and illnesses. One such is hypercholesterolemia-presence of high cholesterol levels throughout the life of an individual and this is inherited.
Cholesterol is not bad but an essential substance that becomes good or bad depending on the levels you maintain in the body. Our body is almost self-sufficient in producing cholesterol and we need to include a limited quantity of fat in the diet to produce the remaining cholesterol levels needed to stay healthy. The fat and cholesterol are absorbed in the intestine and transported to the liver. Here, the fat is also converted into cholesterol by the liver and this cholesterol enters the bloodstream. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (good) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (bad) are the two types of cholesterol which impact the body in various ways. High levels of LDL can cause a heart disease while greater quantities of HDL can protect against heart disease.
Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a condition characterized by increased levels of cholesterol in the blood due to genetic abnormality. In general, increased cholesterol levels are the result of unhealthy food habits and lifestyle issues but hypercholesterolemia is unrelated to diet and lifestyle. There are cases where the person suffering from FH follows an unhealthy lifestyle and there are also cases where some individuals stick to a healthy diet and lifestyle like glue but still suffer from the consequences of high cholesterol levels as it is an inherited disorder. This is fate!
The commonest cause of FH is a mutation in the LDLR gene. This gene helps the body produce a protein known as the low-density lipoprotein receptor which binds to low-density lipoproteins (LDLs). These LDLs carry cholesterol and the LDL receptor aids in cholesterol removal by removing LDLs from the blood. While this process happens smoothly in a normal individual, people with FH face difficulty due to decreased production of LDL receptors or improper removal of LDLs by the receptors due to gene mutations. There are several other gene mutations that can result in FH and when any of these occur, receptors function improperly and pave way for high cholesterol levels irrespective of diet and exercise routines. All these impact cholesterol levels and cause increased cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.
The gene mutation can be inherited from either parent or both parents which determines the severity of the disease. Though rare, a gene mutation inherited from both parents can cause hazardous effects. It is usually passed down from one parent and when this is the case, the risk of acquiring the disease is only 50%. Whatever be it, there is every chance of the disease as the mutation is present in the egg or sperm cell.
When one or both parents suffer from hypercholesterolemia there is every chance of the kid suffering from the disease and the first step includes testing cholesterol levels of the child. This test must be performed when the kid is between 2 and 10 years of age.
A normal person is at an elevated risk of high cholesterol levels later in life due to accumulated years of inactive lifestyle or unhealthy diet routines. FH occurs right from birth and does not boast of its presence by giving out clear symptoms or indications. Rarely, people with hypercholesterolemia might experience:
Any cholesterol buildup around the eyes is an instant indication of FH. A physician asks for the patient’s family history and checks out on the person’s symptoms to diagnose the disease. Even a blood test for total cholesterol levels might be recommended to confirm the condition. When total cholesterol values are higher than 300 mg/dL or 250 mg/dL in children, it becomes a case of dire attention immediately. The bigger step would be for a genetic testing that is sure to notify the physician of the presence of any genetic mutation.
Treatment always starts with a lifestyle change and modification of food habits which brings about an immediate positive impact on some people. While none agree upon the best diet for cholesterol, most people suggest a vegetarian diet to lower total and LDL cholesterol levels. Even a Mediterranean diet is preferred which insists upon abundant produce and limited processed foods. You must consume only as much of calories as you burn out to maintain weight and if you would like to lose some extra kilograms, you must consume fewer calories than you burn. If you aren’t sure about following the right kind of diet to lose weight, get in touch with a nutritionist/dietitian at www.firsteatright.com.
The need for medications depends on your response to diet changes and your risk of heart attack and stroke. Statins are the commonly prescribed drugs for high cholesterol levels. Along with these, individuals must avoid smoking, keep their blood pressure levels controlled, maintain normal glucose levels and maintain a healthy weight to reduce their risk of coronary artery disease. Medications and lifestyle changes produce different results on different people. While diet and exercise changes lower cholesterol levels by 10%, medications can lower LDL levels by another 20-50%.
Every adult above the age of 20 is recommended to get a lipid profile test done every five years. When numbers don’t fall within the ranges, its time to alter your lifestyle and keep your cholesterol levels monitored more frequently.
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
+91 7846 800 800
Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.