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Beyond Your Heart: The Other Risks of High Cholesterol


What other conditions could you develop?

By: Laura Flynn McCarthy

Reviewed By: Kerry Prewitt, M.D., FACC

beyond your heartYou probably already know that high cholesterol raises your risks for heart disease, but you may not know that the artery-narrowing effects of high cholesterol can also increase your risks for other conditions.

  • Poor hearing. A study published in the International Tinnitus Journal finds that people with high cholesterol can suffer tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and loss of hearing for high frequencies. However, treatment with cholesterol-lowering medication may improve these problems.

  • Impaired vision. People with high cholesterol levels are more than twice as likely as those with normal cholesterol to develop a problem known as retinal vein occlusion, which can lead to vision loss, according to a report from Ireland. It analyzed 21 previously published studies comparing 3,000 people with retinal vein occlusion to 28,000 people without it. The condition occurs when one or more veins carrying blood from the eye to the heart become blocked, leading to bleeding, swelling and damaged vision.

  • Peripheral vascular disease. A condition that produces pain and cramps due to inadequate circulation caused by narrowed arteries and inflammation. Peripheral vascular disease can result in complications including poor wound healing, restricted mobility due to pain or discomfort, even amputation (loss of a limb). It also greatly increases the risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

  • Stroke. High cholesterol that narrows arteries to the brain may result in complete blockages or ruptures of those blood vessels, which can cause a stroke and, ultimately, loss of brain function or death

  • Memory loss. A recent study of almost 10,000 people in northern California found that people who had high cholesterol levels in their 40s were about 50 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those with low cholesterol levels midlife. Although the greatest risks were seen in people with total cholesterol levels of 249 to 500 milligrams/deciliter, even cholesterol levels of 221 to 248 raised risks by about 30 percent. A study from France found that at age 55, people with 40 mg/dL or less of high-density lipoproteins (HDL, or “good” cholesterol) were 27 percent more likely to experience memory loss than their counterparts with high HDL levels (above 60 mg/dL). By age 60, the increase in memory loss risk for those with low HDL rose to 53 percent compared to the high HDL group.

 

 

 

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