High Cholesterol Increases Your Risk Of This Common Disease

High cholesterol plagues more than two out of five Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Left unchecked or unmanaged, total cholesterol levels above 200 can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Heart disease has consistently been the number one killer of people not only in the United States but also in the world (per the World Health Organization).

Although you need a certain amount of cholesterol to help produce hormones and maintain the structure of your cells, too much cholesterol floating in your blood can become problematic over time. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) can begin sticking to the walls of your blood vessels, making it more difficult for blood to make it through the narrow passageways. Sometimes these deposits break off and clog your artery altogether, resulting in a heart attack or a stroke.

While you might assume that the heart and the brain are the only organs that could be affected by high cholesterol, other organs could suffer if the arteries leading to them become narrow or blocked. High cholesterol could also put you at risk for kidney disease because your kidneys need blood from the heart to work properly.

Cholesterol-lowering statins might stress your kidneys

Your kidneys serve many functions in your body. Their big job is to filter out waste from your blood, purifying 200 quarts of blood for just a few quarts of urine. Your kidneys also make hormones that control your blood pressure and signal the bone marrow to make red blood cells. You need your kidneys to make vitamin D to help absorb minerals and strengthen your bones. Your fluid and pH levels are also balanced by your kidneys.

If your doctor diagnoses you with high cholesterol, you might be prescribed statins to bring your cholesterol to a healthy level. Most statins work by limiting the amount of cholesterol your liver produces while clearing excess cholesterol from your blood. However, statins might strain your kidneys. A 2016 study in the American Journal of Cardiology found that taking statins increased the risk of acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease by more than 30%.

Protecting your kidneys

Kidney disease can develop not only if you have high blood pressure, but also if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of kidney failure. If you manage or reduce your risk of these conditions, you can reduce your risk of kidney disease. If you have any of these conditions, ask your doctor to check your kidneys because kidney disease might not have warning signs. Untreated urinary tract infections can also damage your kidneys.

The National Institutes of Health suggests keeping your sodium intake below 2,300 milligrams a day to manage your blood pressure and protect your kidneys. Restricting added sugar to just 10% of your daily calories helps manage your blood sugar and kidney health. You'll also keep your kidneys and other organs healthy by managing your weight through a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day will also help you maintain a healthy weight. Be sure to stop smoking, limit alcohol, and find the best method for you to reduce stress.