Which effect does ldl cholesterol have on the body?
Excess ldl cholesterol in your arteries attaches to artery walls and combines with other fats, calcium and cellular waste products to form plaque. Plaque gradually builds up in your blood vessels over time, causing them to narrow and harden. This is called atherosclerosis. Areas of cholesterol plaques can also suddenly rupture. Blood clots that form over the rupture block the already narrowed arteries, further restricting blood flow.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the term used to describe the class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels. CVD is the leading cause of death in the UK. Types of CVD include:
- Angina (chest pain), caused by a limited flow of oxygenated blood to the heart.
- Symptoms of a reduced blood supply to the heart also include pain in the neck, jaw, shoulder, arms or back.
- Coronary heart disease (CHD). The buildup of plaque in the coronary (heart) arteries reduces or blocks the flow of blood to your heart. If an artery becomes completely blocked is can cause a heart attack.
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a common form of cardiovascular disease caused by a buildup of plaque reducing blood flow to the arms and legs. Symptoms include a temporary numbness or pain when you walk.
- Carotid artery disease is caused by plaque blockage in the carotid arteries that carry oxygenated blood to your brain. If the blood flow is blocked, it can cause a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which temporarily affects brain function, or a stroke.
- There are three major abdominal arteries that supply blood to the intestines and bowel. If two or more of these get blocked by plaque buildup you can develop intestinal ischemic syndrome, characterised by abdominal pain, vomiting, and blood in your poo.
High levels of ldl cholesterol inside the gallbladder can also lead to the formation of gallstones, which may need to be surgically removed.