For years, the medical community has believed that a high level of cholesterol can cause heart disease. While few dispute this belief, there are some other factors that can also lead to severe and even fatal heart conditions.
Medical experts who took part in the Framingham Heart Study determined that high blood cholesterol is one of the factors leading to coronary heart disease or CHD. Results of this study showed that people with higher cholesterol levels were also more likely to have coronary heart disease. In fact, it's unusual for people with low cholesterol to suffer from CHD.
The connection between high blood cholesterol and heart disease was also confirmed by another group of experts, whose studies showed that lowering the total LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) level could drastically reduce coronary heart disease. A recent series of cholesterol trials using statin drugs showed that lowering both total and LDL cholesterol levels could greatly reduce the chance of experiencing heart attack, angioplasty (a surgical bypass) or death due to coronary heart disease-related causes.
Aside from high cholesterol levels, there are other risk factors that can increase the chances of developing heart disease. While some risk factors can be lowered through diet, medication and lifestyle changes, others cannot be altered. The more combined risk factors you have, the higher your chance of experiencing heart disease.
Among the unalterable factors leading to heart disease, the most common are as follows:
* Age (45 and over for men, 55 and over for women)
* Family medical history. If you have parents or a sibling who died from heart disease at the ages stated above, you face a higher risk
There are some risk factors that you have the power to change. They are:
* High total cholesterol and high LDL or "bad" cholesterol poses a risk. You can also lower your HDL or "good" cholesterol levels
* Reduce your blood pressure
* Quit smoking
* Manage your diabetes. Diabetics face a higher risk of developing heart disease
* Little or no physical activity
* Obesity or excess weight
If you have one or more of these high-risk factors, see your physician to find out how you can take action and reduce your chances of suffering a heart attack.
Some experts insist that high blood cholesterol and heart disease are somewhat connected. Others, on the other hand, hold that too much animal fat resulting in high cholesterol contributes to heart disease. These experts argue that there is no such thing as "good" and "bad" cholesterol. They believe that mental stress, physical activity and a change in body weight may influence the level of the blood cholesterol, and that high blood cholesterol is not dangerous but simply a reflection of an unhealthy condition.
Experts may continue to debate whether there is a link between cholesterol and heart disease. One thing that we can all agree on, however, is that we must reduce the risks and work to increase our quality of life.