Chest pain that originates from the heart is called angina, and it’s due to the heart muscle receiving an inadequate supply of oxygen. Angina isn’t a disease, but rather a symptom of one of several conditions. Is high cholesterol causing your angina?
It’s a bit of a complex question. On the surface, the answer is no. High cholesterol typically has no symptoms of its own. However, when we look deeper, we find that high cholesterol significantly raises your risk of developing a condition that has angina as a symptom. So indirectly, carrying high levels of cholesterol does contribute to angina, even though it’s an arm’s-length relationship.
Cholesterol is an essential substance produced by your liver that’s used as a building block throughout your body, but it’s not soluble in water, so it can’t travel by itself through your blood. It does, however, hitch a ride on one of two lipoproteins, depending on which way it’s going.
Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, carries cholesterol to the places in your body where it’s needed, while HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, takes cholesterol back to your liver for disposal from your body. This is a natural process that occurs throughout your life. Your cholesterol is considered high when the balance between LDL and HDL tips in favor of the low-density lipoproteins. This can be due to a poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, diabetes, or genetics.
When LDL is high
When you eat a diet that’s high in fat, your level of LDL — often called bad cholesterol — can climb beyond what your HDL can take away, and something must happen with this excess LDL. That something is a buildup of fatty deposits in your bloodstream. These deposits accumulate in the walls of your blood vessels. Over time, these deposits grow enough to restrict the flow of blood through your arteries, the blood vessels that supply oxygen to your body.
These blockages are called atherosclerosis, which leads to coronary heart disease. The restricted supply of oxygen to your heart causes the various forms of angina pain. High cholesterol levels are one of the leading causes of coronary heart disease, but they’re not the only cause. High blood pressure and aging are examples of other risk factors.
Types of angina
There are four general types of angina. These include:
- Stable angina: Typical when coronary heart disease creating predictable angina pain that often follows physical exertion
- Unstable angina: Unpredictable pain that may occur suddenly, even when you’re resting, and it may be a symptom of a heart attack
- Variant angina: Unexpected and usually occurring at night or early morning when you’re at rest
- Microvascular angina: Accompanying coronary microvascular disease, which affects women more often than men, the pain tends to last longer and feel more severe than other types of angina
Treating high cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol but haven’t experienced angina, controlling LDL levels may keep it from developing. While there are several pharmaceutical approaches to controlling high cholesterol, they all work better when combined with improved diet and increased physical activity.
An eating plan heavy on fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains while simultaneously low in animal fats not only reduces cholesterol levels, it plays an important role in losing weight and maintaining healthy weight levels. Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption are other dietary ways to address cholesterol, and 30 minutes of moderate activity at least three times a week can also boost HDL while cutting LDL.
For an evaluation of your cholesterol and overall health, call Indus Healthcare, with convenient locations in Los Angeles and San Bernardino County.