The Impact of High Cholesterol on Men's Health
The body of an average healthy person contains about 35 g of cholesterol, 90% of which is found in an unbound state within the cell membranes of all body tissues and 10% - in blood plasma as a part of lipoproteins. The brain and spinal cord contain the most of the body’s cholesterol in the myelin sheath of the nerve endings.
High levels of cholesterol in the blood (also called hypercholesterolemia) cause the formation of atherosclerotic plaques that accumulate on the inside of the vessel walls. By doing so, cholesterol:
- Reduces the inner lumen of the vessels, thus complicating the blood flow and provoking cardiac ischemia and eventually heart attack;
- Reduces the elasticity of the vessels;
- Promotes a stroke since atherosclerotic plaques, once they break loose from the vessel walls, can block the flow of blood.
However, despite the deep-rooted idea that cholesterol is harmful for the body, it is not entirely true. This organic molecule is essential for the body because it:
- is present in the cell membranes and without it the mechanism of cell protection would be incomplete;
- participates in the process of digestion - digestive juices are synthesized with the help of cholesterol;
- is one of the essential elements required for the synthesis of vitamin D responsible for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the body;
- stimulates the adrenal glands that produce cortisol;
- participates in the production of sex hormones (testosterone, progesterone and estrogen) changes in the levels of which negatively affect human reproductive function;
- isolates nerve fibers.
The “bad” cholesterol that blocks the arteries is called low-density lipoproteins or LDL. The other type of cholesterol is high-density lipoproteins or HDL; it is known as “good” cholesterol since it helps remove LDL from the blood and eventually from the body, thus preventing the development of atherosclerosis. Ideally, an individual should maintain a healthy balance between “good” and “bad” cholesterol to have a good health.
A Norwegian study that involved 40,000 men and women under the age of 60 years has shown that middle-aged men with high levels of blood cholesterol are at a higher risk of developing heart attack (actually three times higher) than middle-aged women with high cholesterol. So, the results of the study have proven that in middle-aged population high cholesterol is more dangerous for men than for women. Therefore, men are more in need of the prevention and treatment of high cholesterol levels. This is especially true for those who have genetic predisposition to heart attacks. There is no clear understanding why such big difference between men and women exists, but some scientists believe it is due to the protective function of the female sex hormone estrogen.
High cholesterol affects not only the cardiovascular system, it also has a negative impact on the male sexual function. High cholesterol can be an indirect cause of erectile dysfunction (ED). The thing is that atherosclerotic plaques are formed not only in the coronary arteries; they can also be accumulated in the blood vessels that supply the penis with blood, thus disturbing or blocking the flow of blood and causing erectile dysfunction. ED can be one of the earliest symptoms of cardiovascular and lipid disorders.
Moreover, some scientific researches claim that there can be a link between the levels of cholesterol in the blood and the development of prostate cancer. Pre-clinical models and epidemiological studies suggest that high levels of cholesterol play an important role in the progression of prostate cancer.
Taking into account all the above said, it stands to reason why it is so important to control the blood levels of cholesterol and start treating high cholesterol as soon as possible.