February 28, 2013

Cholesterol's bad news

Cholesterol can clog your brain

This is a very short section because everything you need to know about how cholesterol may be hazardous to your brain can be summed up in one word — ditto.

That’s ditto to what you've just read about cholesterol and your coronary arteries. Having high levels of cholesterol may also increase the risk of plaque in a cranial artery. Plaque can block the flow of blood travelling through a cranial artery to your brain, triggering a stroke.

Prevention is another ditto. The preventative steps that you can take in relation to your coronary arteries and your heart can also benefit your cranial arteries and your brain.

Cholesterol can build boulders in your gallbladder

Cholesterol is a building block for the bile you need to digest fats. This side of cholesterol behaves like the good Dr. Jekyll. But every yin has its yang, and the bad Mr. Hyde is gallstones.

A gallstone is a rock-like lump that forms when the normal percentages of fat in bile change so that the fat (in this case cholesterol) clumps in a lump in your gallbladder or in the duct leading from the gallbladder to your intestines.

Approximately 80 to 95 percent of all gallstones are made primarily of cholesterol. (The rest are made primarily of calcium.) According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK), as many as 42 million Americans have gallstones. Many of the risk factors for cholesterol gallstones are the same as those for heart disease, such as the following:

·         Diabetes
·         High-cholesterol diet
·         Obesity
·         Smoking

But here’s an odd fact: Yes, being overweight raises your risk of gallstones, but so does going on a diet and losing weight very rapidly. When your body is deprived of its normal quota of calories and fat, your liver is likely to increase its natural production of cholesterol. Sometimes you can’t win for losing, which includes the symptoms, signs, and consequences of gallstones: pains, nausea, belching, vomiting, fever, chills, and, maybe, surgery to remove your gallbladder.

If your doctor recommends yanking out the offending organ, do not to worry. Or at least, not too much. True, all surgery has potential risks, but modern gallbladder surgery is performed laparoscopically (translation: through very small incisions that heal quickly). Once the gallbladder is out, you probably won’t notice much change in your ability to eat what you want. Your gallbladder is just a storage bin where bile produced by the liver is parked until your body yells, “Yo! Send down some bile.” After surgery, your liver still produces bile, which still makes its way into the intestine to help you digest fats.

While some people do develop gastric rumbles, okay, diarrhea, after eating a large, very fatty meal, most patients do just fine so long as they stick with food/meals containing moderate amounts of fat. What’s moderate varies from person to person. If you exceed your own personal limit, trust me, you will know.


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