High cholesterol and high blood pressure are increasingly common conditions, most often caused by unhealthy eating and a lack of exercise. Individuals leading sedentary lifestyles and high fat diets are at a much higher risk of developing one of the conditions, which substantially increases their risk of stroke and heart attack.
The importance of exercise in counteracting this danger was highlighted in a recent article from the BBC which suggested that inactivity is nearly as bad for you as smoking.
This lack of exercise can cause a number of health conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all of which can lead to heart disease, which is currently one of the main causes of death in the UK.
Simple adjustments to lifestyle habits and diet are the best approach for preventing cholesterol and blood pressure from becoming a problem. Although cholesterol is necessary for the body to function healthily, high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol) can slowly build up and block arteries.
High blood pressure is a different condition, although it is often caused by high cholesterol. When pressure in the blood vessels puts strain on the arterial walls, this can lead to ruptures and blood clots, causing heart attack and stroke as the blood flow becomes obstructed.
The first thing to do to help prevent either condition is to increase exercise. Thirty minutes of exercise a day can drastically reduce the risk of high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Diet has become another important issue in in recent years as high amounts of saturated fat, sugar and salt are contained in many pre-prepared food. This increases the risk of developing obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Adjusting your diet to contain more vegetables and fruits and less fat and processed foods will lead to a much healthier lifestyle.
If despite a healthy diet and lifestyle factors (such as not smoking or drinking excessively) you still develop high cholesterol or high blood pressure, there are a number of different treatments available.
Initially GPs will generally recommend pursuing the same form of management as used in prevention. Exercise and diet will be addressed and adjustments may be made in order to reduce fat and eat mainly unprocessed foods while increasing exercise.
If dietary changes and an increase in physical activity have been unsuccessful in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, a doctor might prescribe medication designed to help manage the conditions. Patients are given statins to lower cholesterol, as these medications block the production of LDL in the liver. For high blood pressure calcium channel blockers, alpha blockers and beta blockers are the most commonly prescribed treatments.
A recent study has found that men and women over 50 who took a polypill (a combination treatment of cholesterol and blood pressure medication) could extend life expectancy by up to 11 years. The Daily Mail reported that patients who used the treatment for at least three months lowered their blood pressure on by 12% and cholesterol by 39% on average, meaning that close to 100,000 heart attacks and strokes that could be prevented. This could be beneficial as one daily pill would treat both conditions, instead of patients taking multiple medications.