By Dr. Vivek Baliga B, Cardiology
It is established knowledge that both cholesterol and high blood pressure are silent killers. Each of them is a risk factor for the heart. And if you have both, then you have to be extra careful about your heart. Because, if you do not bring the two under check, then there could be serious consequences for your heart. Read on to know more.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is present in all animal cells and there are two types of it – HDL and LDL. High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL) or the good cholesterol is instrumental in helping with producing and regulating hormones, digestion of food and generation of Vitamin D and giving structure to the body cells. Then there are Low-Density Lipoproteins, the bad cholesterol. It is this LDL that you need to be wary of. If all is fine with your body, HDL will keep LDL levels in check. But if you consume foods containing trans-fats, and saturated fats in excess then the HDL will no longer be able to counter the effects of LDL. And the organ that is affected the most because of rising levels of LDL is the heart.
What is Blood Pressure?
When blood flows through the blood vessels, it exerts pressure on them. When the heart pumps blood into the vessels, the pressure is at its highest. This is called systolic pressure. And when the heart rests between two beats, the pressure drops which is the diastolic pressure. For most people, anything over 120/80 mmHg is considered high blood pressure.
How are Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure linked?
When you have too much of LDL, plaque begins to deposit along the walls of arteries. This makes the arteries lose their elasticity. They become rigid and thick and there is less room for blood to flow through. And that is why blood has to exert extra pressure to flow. This leads to a rise in blood pressure. This is how LDL triggers hypertension.
How can Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure harm the Heart?
Bad cholesterol is responsible for-
1. Coronary Heart Disease
When the arteries become narrow, not enough blood can reach the heart. So there is a depletion of the supply of oxygen to the heart. All cells need oxygen to survive. And when the heart does not get the requisite amount of oxygen, some of the muscles become ineffective.
2. Aortic aneurysm
A portion of the wall of the aorta starts to bulge. If it ruptures, then blood will leak out. And the hemorrhage can be fatal.
3. Heart Attack
When the muscles of the heart die because of insufficient blood supply, it prompts a heart attack. It could also be triggered when something is blocking the arteries. This may happen because a bit of the plaque dislodges and travels along the vessels and then creates a blockage. This is called cholesterol embolism.
Hypertension leads to hypertensive heart disorders- an umbrella term for diseases like heart attack, heart failure and coronary artery disease.
The only way to keep high blood pressure and bad cholesterol at bay is by working out regularly and strictly sticking to a healthy diet.