Is there a link between COVID and high cholesterol? Could someone who has had COVID have raised their cholesterol? What do experts say about this?
High cholesterol and COVID-19 risk
High cholesterol and COVID-19 are two topics that have gained a lot of attention over the past year and a half due to the ongoing pandemic. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is found in your blood and is needed for your body to function properly. However, having too much cholesterol in your blood can increase your risk of developing health problems, such as heart disease.
COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It can affect people of all ages; but some groups of people, such as those with underlying health conditions, are at higher risk of experiencing severe illness and complications.
Recent studies have suggested that people with high cholesterol levels may be at increased risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms and complications. This is because high cholesterol can lead to underlying health problems, such as heart disease, which can weaken the immune system and make it harder for the body to fight off infections like COVID-19.
So, if you think you are one of those who have high cholesterol, how will you manage your condition? What are the steps needed to protect yourself from COVID?
As what others do, even the surge of COVID cases has long gone by in a span of two years, your best defence against COVID-19 are:
- Good hygiene
- Physical distancing
- Observing local health guidelines
In one study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Encrinology, people, most of them in the early 60s, who had COVID had a greater chance of increased cholesterol level. These patients do not have prior problems with cholesterol. But weeks or months Post-COVID, they became at risk.
The research further found that this increased risk in cholesterol covers the time between March 2020 and January 2021, the time when vaccines weren’t widely available yet.
Similar findings have been found amongst the younger age bracket; people as young as 20s. And in another sample ended up with high cholesterol levels and body mass index (BMI). According to the report, the increased BMI and cholesterol can be attributed to metabolic disorder.
It can be recalled that most people stayed at home during pandemic and resorted to sedentary activities. The non-movement can be blamed on an unbalanced diet (pleasure in food when taste has returned or the celebration of life), change in behaviour and lack of exercise, resulting in increased risks of heart and kidney diseases and diabetes.
Is high cholesterol a symptom of Long COVID?
When you get sick with COVID-19, it can sometimes cause changes in your body that last even after you have recovered.We call this ‘Long COVID’. One of the things that can happen with Long COVID is that your cholesterol levels might be higher than usual.
Cholesterol is a substance that your body needs to function properly, but too much of it can be a bad thing. High cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. So, if you’ve had COVID-19 and you are experiencing symptoms that seem related to high cholesterol, like fatigue or shortness of breath, it is possible that it could be a sign of Long COVID.
Whether you had COVID in the past and you have concerns about your cholesterol levels, discussing with your healthcare provider is the best to way to plan about it. They can help you figure out the best course of action to keep you healthy.
Understanding HDL and LDL
HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is commonly referred to as the ‘good’ cholesterol, while LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol.
HDL cholesterol carries cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it can be broken down and eliminated from the body. In contrast, LDL cholesterol can build up on the walls of the arteries, leading to blockages that can cause heart disease and stroke.
Regarding the potential link between HDL and LDL levels and Post-COVID, recent studies have shown that COVID-19 infection can have a significant impact on lipid metabolism, which can affect the levels of HDL and LDL in the body. Specifically, COVID-19 infection can cause changes in lipid levels, leading to a decrease in HDL and an increase in LDL levels.
This is concerning because low levels of HDL and high levels of LDL are both risk factors for cardiovascular disease, which is a common long-term complication of COVID-19 infection. Therefore, it’s essential to monitor lipid levels in Post-COVID patients and take steps to manage any abnormalities to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Thus, COVID-19 infection can disrupt lipid metabolism, resulting in changes in HDL and LDL levels. Managing any irregularities in cholesterol levels and monitoring them is essential for lowering this risk.
Do the COVID-19 vaccines cause high cholesterol?
As of now, there is no proof linking COVID-19 vaccinations to elevated cholesterol. Being vaccinated can help defend against COVID-19 and possibly lower the risk of a severe disease, but high cholesterol can be a risk factor for a severe COVID-19.
High blood cholesterol levels can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke even though cholesterol is a crucial component for the body and is involved in many essential processes. It is frequently advised to keep healthy cholesterol levels by eating a balanced diet, exercising frequently and occasionally taking medication.
Some research have hypothesized that specific immunizations may reduce cholesterol levels. The investigation into how COVID-19 vaccinations may affect cholesterol levels is continuing and unresolved.
The fact that any potential negative effects of COVID-19 vaccinations are often transient and do not have a long-term impact on cholesterol levels should also be noted.
Therefore, there is currently no evidence to support the claim that receiving the COVID-19 vaccine results in elevated levels of cholesterol in the body. Maintaining appropriate cholesterol levels can help lower the chance of developing a serious illness from COVID-19 and is crucial for overall health.
What is in the vaccines that can treat COVID-19?
The vaccines contain a small piece of genetic material called messenger RNA (mRNA) that provides instructions to our cells to make a harmless piece of the spike protein found on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.
Once the harmless piece of spike protein is made, our immune system recognizes it as foreign and produces an immune response to fight against it. This immune response includes the production of antibodies that can recognize and neutralize the spike protein if we are exposed to the virus in the future.
The mRNA in the vaccines is encased in a lipid nanoparticle, which helps protect the mRNA and enables it to enter our cells. The vaccines do not contain live virus particles and cannot give us COVID-19.
In addition to the mRNA and lipid nanoparticle, the vaccines also contain other ingredients such as salts, sugars and buffers that help stabilize the vaccine and maintain its effectiveness.
The safety and efficacy of the vaccines have been rigorously tested in clinical trials involving tens of thousands of participants. These vaccines have been shown to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19 and have undergone rigorous safety monitoring.
High cholesterol treatments and COVID-19
As you may know, high cholesterol is a medical condition that can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. To manage high cholesterol, doctors may prescribe medications such as statins. These medications work by lowering the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream, which can help prevent the buildup of plaque in your arteries.
Researchers have been investigating whether there is a relationship between high cholesterol and the severity of COVID-19. Some studies have suggested that people with high cholesterol may be more susceptible to severe COVID-19 symptoms, although the evidence is not yet conclusive.
Additionally, there has been some concern about the use of statins and other cholesterol-lowering medications in the context of COVID-19. Some early studies suggested that these medications may increase the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, but more recent research has not found a clear link between statin use and COVID-19 outcomes.
If you have high cholesterol, proper medication and lifestyle changes can help lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. However, if you have concerns about the use of cholesterol-lowering medications, your doctor is the best go-to expert to determine the best course of action for your individual situation.
As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, practising good health habits can help reduce your risk of complications from the virus, including managing high cholesterol levels. Working with your healthcare provider is necessary to develop a treatment plan that meets your unique needs and takes into account any concerns you may have about the use of medications for COVID-19.
Overall, while there is still much to learn about the relationship between COVID-19 and high cholesterol, we can take comfort in the fact that medical researchers and practitioners are working tirelessly to provide the best possible care for patients.