Alcohol and Cholesterol Issues Don't Mix

Gillian May

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High cholesterol is a major health issue in the US. According to the CDC, 94 million US adults have a total cholesterol level over 200 mg/dl and 28 million have a total cholesterol over 240 mg/dl. Normal cholesterol levels are anything under 200 mg/dl. These numbers are staggering and are putting people at risk for major health complications and disability.

However, did you know that alcohol use can actually raise cholesterol levels even higher? Most people think the level of fat they ingest affects their cholesterol levels when in fact it is more associated with starches and sugars. The liver turns glucose into cholesterol and either stores it or circulates it in the blood. As we know, alcohol has a lot of sugar and as such, has been shown to increase cholesterol levels considerably.

But sugar content isn’t the only reason to re-think alcohol if you have high cholesterol issues. What some people may not realize is that high cholesterol, along with increased cardiovascular risks, can also increase the incidence of fatty liver disease. High cholesterol is one of the biggest reasons why people get non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which can cause serious heart and liver-related mortality.

High cholesterol causes liver cells to turn to fat cells which can significantly impair liver function. Over time, if cholesterol levels aren’t lowered somehow, the liver damage can become permanent and can contribute to disability and death.

However, another problem with combining alcohol and cholesterol issues is that alcohol also significantly impairs the liver. So adding alcohol on top of cholesterol issues is like a double whammy for the liver. Alcohol and cholesterol, when combined, can speed up liver damage.

On top of that, the medications often used to control cholesterol are also hard on the liver. Statins are the number one medication class used to treat cholesterol issues in people with high cholesterol problems. These medications require significant work from the liver to process and clear them. In fact, statins work directly with the liver to help decrease the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood.

What this means is that if you take statins for high cholesterol and combine it with heavy alcohol use, this is a triple whammy for the liver. You may be increasing your risk of liver disease considerably. However, most people may not realize this because education isn’t widely available about this topic. Family doctors may advise patients not to drink when taking statins, but often they don’t explain why this is a problem. This leads to misconceptions and misunderstandings.

Furthering this problem is that a few years back, research was released about alcohol possibly being good for heart-related issues. Often, those with high cholesterol are the ones at risk for heart complications. Unfortunately, many people took those studies as a green light to go ahead and drink. Recently, however, these studies have been debunked due to methodological issues. Further research has shown that alcohol can actually be dangerous to the heart and the subsequent rising of cholesterol issues is one of the reasons for heart-related complications. But also, alcohol increases blood pressure, which is also a problem for cardiovascular disease.

Unfortunately, most people were so worried about their hearts that they didn’t realize the liver-related complications of both cholesterol issues and heavy drinking. The truth is, alcohol use and cholesterol issues may increase your risk of liver complications and can further exacerbate cardiovascular disease.

So if you have high cholesterol, you may want to skip alcohol use, especially if you take statins for the condition. However, some people may find it impossible to stop drinking altogether. If this is the case, then it’s wise to follow the CDC guidelines for safe drinking, which is no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for a man.

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I'm a former nurse turned freelance writer. I have extensive experience in administration, frontline care, and education in mental health, public health, and geriatrics. However, after 20 years, I needed a change and always wanted to write. I have personal and family experience in mental health and addictions, so I'm passionate about advocacy and education in those areas. I'm also a traveler, photographer, and artist. I funnel all my various expertise into my writing and hope to provide valuable content that is entertaining and educational. Join my email list if you want to read more of my work - https://upbeat-trader-4181.ck.page/839d0ab3f9. I also have a book on Alcoholic Liver Disease coming out in 2021.

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