High cholesterol doesn’t have any perceptible symptoms, however, when the plaque in your arteries builds up, you may start to experience signs of more serious complications, notably heart disease. This is characterised by shortness of breath, chest pains and angina. Once the condition has developed into coronary heart disease, it becomes irreversible. High cholesterol is not only linked to saturated fats and lifestyle, however. Andreas Michaelides, Chief of Psychology at Noon, explains how your mental health may affect cholesterol.
Scientists have identified this as an early stage in triggering the build up of cholesterol plaque in the arteries, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Doctor Michaelides pointed out: “It is important to note that not all stress is created equal. There can be certain benefits to stress such as meeting a deadline or winning a competition.
“Like other things in life, too much stress can detrimentally affect your physical, emotional and psychological well-being.
“When we encounter a stressful situation, our body normally reacts with an automatic ‘flight or fight’ response and releases a steroid known as cortisol.
“Studies show that chronic stress and high levels of cortisol are associated with weight gain, a weakened immune system, anxiety and depression, and chronic conditions like hypertension or heart disease.
“Food cravings can be difficult to resist when you’re most vulnerable emotionally, psychologically and even physically.“
In the short term, stress can shut down appetite, notably due to the secretion of epinephrine. But during a longer period of stress, it is cortisol that dominates, and this has been found to amp up appetite.
Studies have shown that cortisol can trigger cravings of sugary, salty and fatty foods, because the brain is tricked into thinking it needs to fight off a threat.
Doctor Michaelides said: “You might find yourself eating more of a certain type of food, having larger or smaller potions, or having cravings more than usual.
“When we are stressed, the blind mechanism of the body assumes more fat intake will help us conquer a harsh environment that is responsible for these “fight or flight” environmental stress cue. In the long run, this can lead to high cholesterol.
“When stress is chronic, these adaptive mechanisms start to stop other processes from doing their essential functions over the long term.
“Stress can disrupt digestion, the immune system, the ability to focus, the ability to derive pleasure from things we typically enjoy.”