How Does Cholesterol Affect Your Eyes?

The body needs cholesterol, a waxy molecule, for normal function, but different forms of cholesterol have distinct health effects. The genetic make-up, lifestyle choices, and medical problems are all potential contributors to high cholesterol.

High cholesterol levels can harm the eyes and cause blockages in the retina. Physicians may only be able to detect clots in the veins and arteries in the retina brought on by elevated cholesterol. You can modify your diet and start exercising in addition to taking drugs to lower your cholesterol.

What Is Cholesterol?

The body produces the waxy material that is known as cholesterol. It is crucial for several bodily processes, including the synthesis of vitamins and the production of hormones. It circulates in the blood as lipoproteins, which are waxy/fatty substances encased in a protein shell.

The body contains two different kinds of lipoproteins (cholesterol).

  • The healthiest kind of cholesterol that the body produces is thought to be high-density lipoproteins (HDL).
  • Low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which are frequently absorbed from specific diets, are thought to be the harmful types of cholesterol.

The body can also produce triglycerides from the food you eat.At low levels, triglycerides are thought to be beneficial, but at high levels, especially when combined with high LDL, they may be unhealthy.

Reasons for High Cholesterol

  • High levels of LDL or triglycerides are often meant when medical practitioners talk about high cholesterol levels. High cholesterol has several reasons, including:
  • Genetic traits that are passed down from the parents.
  • Diet, which can cause high cholesterol levels as a result of consuming processed foods, high-fat foods or foods with a lot of sugar.
  • Medical issues include thyroid dysfunction or diabetes.
  • Inadequate exercise or activity.
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, certain narcotics, or prescription medications.
  • Alterations in metabolism, such as age-related slowdown of metabolism.
  • One of the main risk factors for elevated cholesterol is obesity.

High Cholesterol & Retinal Artery Occlusions

LDL distributes cholesterol to bodily tissues and artery walls, whereas HDL moves cholesterol from the artery walls to the liver. Therefore, having high levels of LDL can result in arteries and veins becoming smaller, plaque accumulating in their walls, and the formation of clots as a result of plaque building in an artery or as a result of plaque breaking off and migrating to a smaller artery.

Reduced blood supply to the brain causes strokes. This happens as a result of blocked or narrowed arteries. Blockages in the heart can result in a heart attack. Retinal artery occlusions are the term used to describe blockages that affect the retina of the eyes.

Signs of Retinal Artery Occlusions

  • Small, yellowish skin growths that appear above the eyelids called xanthelasma and may also indicate excessive cholesterol levels.
  • A clot from another artery, such as the carotid artery, that has broken off and become part of a Hollenhorst plaque, which is a deposit of cholesterol.
  • While a Hollenhorst plaque can obstruct blood flow and cause the tissue being fed by the artery to die, possessing either xanthelasma would likely be regarded as benign or innocuous. Loss of vision as a result has the potential to be permanent. These plaques might potentially indicate a higher risk of stroke.

Diagnosing the Effects of High Cholesterol

The only part of the body where blood vessels may be seen without cutting into the body's tissues is the retina. Doctors can assess the level of plaque and clots you may have as a result of elevated cholesterol levels by looking at the blood vessels in your retina. The creation of treatment regimens may benefit from this kind of monitoring.

Changing the Diet

  • Reducing consumption of processed foods, sweets, and high-fat foods, such as red meat, can significantly lower cholesterol levels.
  • Taking supplements like omega-3 fatty acid or lecithin products may have some advantages. Consuming foods high in phytosterols, such as olive oil and almonds, can help lower cholesterol levels.
  • Stop drinking alcohol and smoking immediately.

Healthy Diet Tips

  • Reduce or stop eating all sources of refined sugar and trans fats, as well as fried and deep-fried foods.
  • Oatmeal is a good example of a whole-grain alternative for rice, wheat, and other grains.
  • Reduce your intake of animal fats and consume more lean proteins (cheese, butter, etc.)
  • Make fruits and vegetables your primary sources of carbohydrates.
  • Instead of eating high-calorie snacks, reach for sliced fruits, nuts, and vegetables (carrots, celery, peppers, radishes, etc.)

Become More Active

Lowering cholesterol levels can be achieved by starting an exercise regimen, using medication, and making dietary modifications. Consult the doctor before beginning any workout programme. Depending on your level of fitness, the program should have you participate in exercises that are not too taxing for 30 minutes or more each day.

Healthy eating, increased exercise, weight loss, and medication use can lower cholesterol levels and enhance general health, including eye health.

Active Living Advice

  • When feasible, avoid using elevators and escalators and instead use the steps.
  • Get moving for at least 30-45 minutes each day.
  • Eat something else if you're not watching TV; it encourages a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Start a regular fitness program.
Dr. Satya Karna
Department of Ophthalmology
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