High cholesterol is a common occurrence in older adults. However, it’s possible to have it without even knowing since it causes no symptoms. Because it is a symptomless condition, you may wonder why it matters. The truth is that having high cholesterol is a risk factor for many serious conditions. When you understand more about high cholesterol and what can happen when it’s not kept in check, you may feel more confident as a caregiver.
Total, Good, and Bad Cholesterol
Cholesterol has a waxy consistency. While it’s common for people to think of it as something bad, the body actually needs some cholesterol to create new, healthy cells. Cholesterol comes from two sources, the body and the foods people eat. The liver produces all the cholesterol the body needs, but eating a diet that is high in cholesterol can contribute to problematic cholesterol levels. Foods that contain cholesterol are those that are animal-based, such as meat, full-fat dairy products, and poultry.
There are two types of cholesterol:
Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL): This is the kind of cholesterol that is referred to as “bad cholesterol.” It is the kind that can collect on the walls of arteries, causing them to narrow or become blocked.
High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL): This is what people call “good cholesterol.” It collects excess cholesterol particles and takes them back to the liver.
When your aging relative has a cholesterol test, the report will include information about total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol. Total cholesterol is a measurement of all the cholesterol in the blood, both good and bad. So, having high total cholesterol can be either good or bad depending on the individual readings.
What Can Happen
Because cholesterol can collect on the walls of arteries, having high cholesterol is a risk factor for several conditions, such as:
Heart Attack: If plaques formed by cholesterol break away, they can lodge in an artery, cutting off blood flow to the heart. When the heart is deprived of its blood supply, a heart attack occurs.
Stroke: Plaques that break off can also cut off blood supply to the brain, causing a stroke.
High Blood Pressure: Arteries coated in cholesterol get harder and narrower, making it more difficult for blood to move through them, which increases blood pressure.
Angina: A build up of cholesterol on the coronary arteries can cause chest pain, or angina. It may also cause other symptoms of coronary artery disease.
Homecare can assist with the management of high cholesterol. Homecare providers can remind the senior when it is time for them to take cholesterol medications. Homecare providers can also drive older adults to the doctor’s office when it is time for them to have a cholesterol re-check. In addition, a homecare provider can cook healthy, balanced meals that limit cholesterol-rich foods.