September Cholesterol Education Month, which makes now the perfect time to explore how the risks of high cholesterol may impact kidney health.
About High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in your blood. The body produces cholesterol on its own but it can also come from eating animal food products like meat. While your body needs a certain amount of cholesterol for certain functions, you don’t want high levels of cholesterol.
Too much cholesterol in the blood is bad because it can build up in your blood vessels. The buildup of cholesterol in blood vessels can narrow the vessels and cause blockages. Narrowed or blocked blood vessels can prevent blood from getting to certain parts of your body, including your kidneys. So, one of the major risks of high cholesterol is kidney disease.
Potential Effects and Risks of High Cholesterol
The potential risks of high cholesterol are far-reaching. High cholesterol can affect your blood vessels by making them narrow or causing blockages. Because your blood vessels are present in all of your organ systems, high cholesterol can affect your body in a myriad of ways. Many of the issues high cholesterol causes can be potentially serious.
The potential effects and risks of high cholesterol include:
- Narrowing of the arteries (known as atherosclerosis)
- Reduced blood flow
- Heart attack
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA) – sometimes called a “mini-stroke”
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
- Kidney stones
High Cholesterol and Kidney Disease
According to the National Kidney Foundation, a Physician’s Health Study found that individuals with cholesterol problems are twice as likely to have chronic kidney disease (CKD). People with high total cholesterol and reduced “good” HDL cholesterol) were more likely to have a reduced glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Measuring GFR is the most effective way to assess kidney function.
Also, people with CKD have a higher risk of developing heart disease. That’s because people with CKD may also have other health issues known to lead to heart disease. These risks include:
- Large calcium intake from diet and medication
- Whole body inflammation
- High blood phosphorous levels
- High parathyroid hormone levels
High cholesterol is also a contributing factor to heart disease, so kidney patients should monitor their cholesterol closely. The National Kidney Foundation recommends that people with CKD have cholesterol labs drawn at least yearly, but your doctor may want you to have them drawn more frequently based on your risk level and your health history.
Managing High Cholesterol
As you can see, the risks of high cholesterol can have a big effect on the health of your entire body, including your kidneys. It’s important that you try to prevent high cholesterol through a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine. If you develop high cholesterol, it is crucial that you manage the condition and try to decrease your levels.
Lifestyle and dietary changes are the most important aspect of managing the risks of high cholesterol. These changes include:
- Talking to your doctor and/or dietician about the best food choices to make
- Foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol
- Decrease trans fatty acids
- Gradually increase fiber
- Increasing physical activity to 30 minutes every day at a moderate level
- Obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight
- Not smoking
- Not drinking alcohol excessively
You should also work hard to control other health conditions that increase your risk of high cholesterol, kidney issues, or heart disease. That includes hypertension and diabetes. Once you have made lifestyle changes and managed other health conditions, your doctor may recommend medications to help you manage your cholesterol.
Make an Appointment
At Durham Nephrology, we provide comprehensive care to patients in Durham and Oxford, NC with kidney disease and high blood pressure. Our team is experienced in providing treatment and guidance to kidney patients. If you have questions about the risks of high cholesterol when you have kidney disease, call us at 919-477-3005 to talk to a staff member and make an appointment.
When you visit our offices, you can be confident that we are taking the necessary precautions to protect the health of our patients as well as our staff. We are following all guidelines for sanitization, social distancing, and face coverings.