Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Food sustains all life forms and every time we eat food; the body breaks it down into energy, proteins, nutrients and vitamins that are intrinsic for the human body to function as it should. However, incorrect food items and poor eating habits can have an adverse impact and lead to organ malfunction, illness and disease.

What Happens To Your Body When You Have High Cholesterol?

Most of us are aware of the good and adverse effects of varied foods on the body and also about the harmful effects of excesses of certain compounds in the body. People often have varying food related questions pertaining to effects of food on health. One such common question is “what happens to the human body as a result of high cholesterol”. While this problem is related to some extent to the nutrition and intake of food, much is also dependent on the body metabolism, underlying conditions, health problems.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a sterol, a lipid molecule and in simplest terms a fat like substance produced by the body and derived from food. Cholesterol is essential to human body functions owing to the fact that it is instrumental in building cell walls and in the production of certain hormones. Not all cholesterol can be labeled as bad and neither is all cholesterol good. It is important to know what happens to your body when you have high cholesterol, so as to make the necessary changes in the diet, lifestyle and seek medical advice for appropriate treatment.

The food we eat contributes to 25% of the body’s cholesterol levels; the rest is produced by the liver. The body’s cholesterol levels are made up of…

  • HDL- High-Density Lipoprotein
  • LDL- Low-Density Lipoprotein
  • Triglycerides

HDL is the good kind of cholesterol that combats the adverse effects of cholesterol by transporting extra cholesterol from the arteries back to the liver; to be disposed of. LDL is the bad kind of cholesterol that allows buildup of cholesterol in the arteries; leading to various illness and health problems. It is easy to see that good cholesterol or HDL has no adverse effects on health and wellness. Hence; to answer the question “what happens to your body when you have high cholesterol?”… We must concentrate on the effects of having high levels of bad cholesterol or LDL.

Effects of High Level of Bad Cholesterol on Cardiac Health

When considering what happens to your body when you have high cholesterol, the first thing that strikes the mind is heart health. Several studies have shown that higher levels of bad cholesterol can increase the risk of cardiac disorders. Buildup of cholesterol in the arteries due to high levels of LDL leads to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition wherein buildup of cholesterol in the arteries leads to hardening of the arteries and inflexibility. These stiff arteries are not conducive to the flow of blood from the heart to all parts of the body. The heart is ultimately overworked owing to the fact that it has to pump blood harder to achieve its objective of supplying blood and this overworked heart is finally compromised leading to cardiac illness. The buildup of cholesterol in plaque form in the arteries also comes with the risk of a heart attack.

This happens when a portion of the plaque breaks off, forms a clot and compromises blood flow from the heart. This plaque buildup can also lead to a stroke if it results in clots that block blood flow to the brain.

Effects of High Level of Bad Cholesterol on the Endocrine System

The endocrine system or the body’s hormone production glands utilize cholesterol in the production of certain hormones like estrogen, testosterone and cortisol. Under certain circumstances, hormone production or the lack thereof may lead to spikes and drops in HDL or LDL. This can have either positive or adverse effects on your health and wellbeing.

  • A menstrual cycle leads to a rise in estrogen production which also results in a spike in HDL levels; that has it fair share of health benefits.
  • Menopausal women experience decreased estrogen levels and decreased HDL levels which may lead to excess cholesterol buildup in the arteries.
  • Hypothyroidism leads to increase in LDL levels.
  • Hyperthyroidism has the opposite effect leading to increased levels of HDL.

It is easy to see that the endocrine system largely governs HDL and LDL levels; leading to positive or adverse health effects. This is an important aspect of what happens to your body when you have high cholesterol.

Effects of High Level of Bad Cholesterol on the Nervous System

Cholesterol is essential for brain functions which is why the brain utilizes up to 20% of cholesterol in the human body. However; anything more than that can lead to some damage such as strokes and even Alzheimer’s disease. This may be surprising but is true, that risk of such serious nervous conditions are included in the list of what happens to your body when you have high cholesterol.

Effects of High Level of Bad Cholesterol on the Digestive System

Cholesterol is instrumental in the production of bile to break down foods in the digestive system. However, excess cholesterol in the bile can lead to the formation of crystals which then results in gallbladder stones. Gallstones are a traumatic and painful medical condition.

In conclusion; it is easy to see that high levels of LDL or increased bad cholesterol levels in the body can lead to poor health and life threatening ailments. Now that you know what happens to your body when you have high cholesterol, you can take the necessary steps and get it treated appropriately at the earliest.

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: July 11, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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