Cholesterol a Big Factor in Vascular Health 

This is the last part of the series focusing on lifestyle management for the prevention of vascular disease. So far, we have discussed the role of a healthy weight, normal blood pressure, optimal level of blood sugar, exercise, and smoking cessation in the prevention and management of vascular conditions. Today, we will focus on the role of cholesterol in your vascular health.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in the walls of human cells. It gets deposited in the inner lining of blood vessels and can result in narrowing (stenosis) or blockage (occlusion) leading to reduced amounts of blood getting to the organ it supplies. An easy way to understand it is to think of blood vessels (which are narrow, tubular structures) as the pipes in the kitchen sink. Cholesterol is produced by the human body, but it also comes from certain foods of animal origin, such as eggs, cheese, and meat. Over time, much as the kitchen sink clogs up, it builds up inside the vessel walls and causes blockages.

There are two types of cholesterol:
Good cholesterol: High-density lipoprotein (HDL) helps to keep the arteries from becoming blocked
Bad cholesterol: Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) builds up and causes blockages in the arteries.

If lifestyle changes, including modifying the food that you eat, are unable to control and improve your cholesterol levels, most doctors will prescribe lipid-lowering medications known as statins.

What Are Statins? They are medications that act at key control points in the metabolism of cholesterol in your blood. When bad cholesterol is high, the risk of heart attack and stroke is extremely high. All types of atherosclerosis are improved when patients take statins.

Who Should Take Statins? 

  • People at higher risk of heart attack and stroke due to high levels of cholesterol in their blood.
  • Patients with hardening of the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the brain or their legs.
  • Vascular surgery patients: During a vascular procedure, people who take statins have fewer complications.

BIO: Dr. Aparajita is a fellowship-trained vascular and endovascular surgeon. She is a co-author of 20-plus journal articles and publications and was recently nominated for an Inspiration Award by the American Medical Association.

This column is sponsored by KSC Cardiology, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFHN or its advertisers.