What is cholesterol and how does it impact your heart?

Ramya’s family always enjoyed life to the fullest. Ever since she was young, they had frequented restaurants, gone on trips and indulged in eating food from all over the world. However, as she got older, Ramya began hearing stories of people who had contracted a terminal illness, including cardiac diseases, and she knew incidences of heart attacks were on the rise. While her parents assured her that they have invested in all types of insurance which would ensure their continued good health, Ramya was not convinced. She knew that the benefits of having health insurance were many, but she also understood the importance of prevention.

Through incidences and conversations with colleagues and friends, Ramya realised that cholesterol levels needed to be kept in check if cardiac diseases and other kinds of terminal illness had to be kept in check.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is an organic molecule and essentially a lipid, more commonly known as a type of fat. The liver produces cholesterol that is used to help the body build new cells, insulate nerves and also produce hormones. However, cholesterol also enters the body through ingestion of certain kinds of foods, and this excess cholesterol can often prove to be a risk factor for heart diseases.

It is important to remember that there are two kinds of cholesterol, namely low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is the “bad” kind of cholesterol that can lead to build up in arteries and form fatty deposits called plaque which are waxy in nature and can cause severe damage. HDL, which is the “good” type of cholesterol, transports the extra cholesterol in the arteries to the liver and removes it from the body.

Why it is considered to be a risk factor for cardiac diseases.

  • When cholesterol is present in excess quantities in the blood of a person, it tends to build upon the artery walls. This causes a process called atherosclerosis which is a form of heart disease. This narrows the arteries, causing blood flow to slow down or be blocked. Since blood carries oxygen to the heart, which is an essential function for survival, this may cause the person to suffer chest pain. If blockage to a portion of the heart has been induced which leads to a cut off of the blood supply, this situation can result in a heart attack.
  • The build up of plaque in coronary arteries, due to excess levels of LDL, can disrupt the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle; which may result in chest pain called angina. Angina is a temporary disruption of blood flow, and a warning for a heart attack. Pieces of plaque can become disjointed and form clots while the arteries get narrower, thereby fully blocking the flow of blood to the heart. This is a heart attack, while a stroke is used to describe the situation when arteries going to the brain or within the brain.
  • Plaque can also result in blockage of blood flow to arteries running to the intestinal tract, legs and feet. This results in peripheral arterial disease.

Maintaining an adequate level of cholesterol in the body is essential. It is important to conduct regular blood tests, which can detect the level of cholesterol since it will help regularise the diet and other conditions accordingly. There are several types of insurance, under which the cost of regular medical expenses incurred through test and diagnosis is fully covered. The Heart and Health Insurance by Future Generali India Life Insurance covers the insured from 59 critical illnesses. The benefits of having health insurance are many, but it is essential to pick a plan that meets individual requirements.