What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in the blood. It is produced in the liver and is also absorbed from the food you eat. Cholesterol is important for the function of your body. It forms the outer membrane of your cells, it helps you digest fats and it is also used to make certain hormones and vitamin D which you need to stay healthy. 

There are two main types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL. HDL cholesterol is usually referred to as ‘good cholesterol’ and LDL is ‘bad cholesterol’.  Both LDL and HDL cholesterol are important for the natural function of your body, but too much LDL can cause problems. 

How Do You Know if You Have High Cholesterol?

High cholesterol does not usually produce any symptoms. Most people find out they have high cholesterol after having a blood test. The blood test will look at your total cholesterol level, the level of HDL and LDL cholesterol and also the levels of other fats like triglycerides. 

Some people have an increased risk of high cholesterol, therefore it is recommended that you have a cholesterol test if you have not had one before and you’re over 40, overweight, or if you have a family history of high cholesterol or heart problems. 

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What Does it Mean if Your Cholesterol is Too High?

Having high cholesterol usually means that your LDL levels are too high. However, a healthy LDL level can vary from person to person. Generally, a healthy cholesterol level is less than 5 mmol/L. HDL cholesterol should be 1mmol/L or above and LDL cholesterol should be less than 4 mmol/L. If you already have a build-up of plaque in your arteries or if you have other risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as diabetes, your target cholesterol level may be lower. 

High cholesterol levels can cause cholesterol to build up in your blood vessels, this is called atherosclerosis. Over time, this can affect the function of your blood vessels, making them narrower and increasing your risk of blood clots. This is a leading cause of heart attack and stroke. 

How Does High Cholesterol Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

High cholesterol levels in your blood lead to a condition called atherosclerosis. This is when the cholesterol builds up inside of your arteries. Over time, this can make the artery much narrower, reducing the blood that can flow through the artery. 

During an erection, the penis fills with blood. For an erection to be successful, there needs to be an adequate blood supply to the penis. If the arteries are very narrow, it can restrict the blood flow to the penis, causing erectile dysfunction. 

What Treatments are Available?

High cholesterol increases naturally as we age, but there are certain lifestyle factors that can increase your risk. These include obesity and a diet high in saturated fat. Making lifestyle changes like weight loss and having a diet with less saturated fat may help to reduce your cholesterol levels. 

There are also medication treatments available for high cholesterol known as statins. There are many different types of statins, but they all work in similar ways. Statins work by reducing the amount of cholesterol produced in the liver and by helping the liver to remove more cholesterol from the bloodstream. Statins can be an effective way to reduce high cholesterol. 

Erectile dysfunction medications may also help you if you have high cholesterol. They work by allowing the blood vessels to relax and widen. A wider blood vessel means that more blood can reach the penis so you can get an erection. 

Are There Any Other Medical Conditions That Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

There are many different causes of erectile dysfunction. Some conditions, such as diabetes and smoking can also damage the blood vessels that supply the penis. Damage to nerves in and around the penis can cause erectile dysfunction, by disrupting an important signalling pathway to the brain. Erectile dysfunction can be a side effect of certain medications such as finasteride. It is also important to remember that mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression can also affect your ability to get an erection. 

If you experience erectile dysfunction, it is important to go to your doctor as it may indicate another underlying health condition. They will be able to suggest an appropriate treatment for your situation. 

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