Only About 20% Of The Cholesterol In Your Bloodstream Comes From The Food You Eat Your Body Makes The Rest
Cholesterol has a bad reputation, thanks to its well-known role in promoting heart disease. Excess cholesterol in the bloodstream is a key contributor to artery-clogging plaque, which can accumulate and set the stage for a heart attack. However, the role of cholesterol in your body is not all negative.
To fully explain cholesterol, you need to realize that it’s also vital to your health and well-being. Although we measure cholesterol production in the blood, it’s found in every cell in the body. The Harvard Special Health Report Managing Your Cholesterol explains cholesterol as a waxy, whitish-yellow fat and a crucial building block in cell membranes. Cholesterol also is needed to make vitamin D, hormones , and fat-dissolving bile acids. In fact, cholesterol production is so important that your liver and intestines make about 80% of the cholesterol you need to stay healthy. Only about 20% comes from the foods you eat.
If you eat only 200 to 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day , your liver will produce an additional 800 milligrams per day from raw materials such as fat, sugars, and proteins.
Since cholesterol is a fat, it can’t travel alone in the bloodstream. It would end up as useless globs . To get around this problem, the body packages cholesterol and other lipids into minuscule protein-covered particles that mix easily with blood. These tiny particles, called lipoproteins , move cholesterol and other fats throughout the body.
What Are Ldl And Hdl
LDL and HDL are two types of lipoproteins. They are a combination of fat and protein. The lipids need to be attached to the proteins so they can move through the blood. LDL and HDL have different purposes:
- LDL stands for low-density lipoproteins. It is sometimes called the “bad” cholesterol because a high LDL level leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries.
- HDL stands for high-density lipoproteins. It is sometimes called the “good” cholesterol because it carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. Your liver then removes the cholesterol from your body.
Does Vitamin D Lower Cholesterol
Theres conflicting information when it comes to the link between cholesterol and vitamin D.
Population studies show that people with lower vitamin D levels are more likely to have high cholesterol, although this doesnt prove a cause and effect relationship.
One found that vitamin D supplements have no cholesterol-lowering effects, at least in the short term. In fact, the researchers found that the supplements were actually associated with an increase in LDL.
However, found that taking calcium and vitamin D supplements together improved cholesterol levels in postmenopausal, overweight, or obese women.
The verdict, according to the National Institutes of Health , is that theres insufficient evidence to determine any relationship between your vitamin D intake and your cholesterol levels.
But with the host of benefits that vitamin D provides to those that use it, theres still no deterrent in using vitamin D as part of your healthy lifestyle.
According to the Mayo Clinic, daily vitamin D use is safe in doses up to 4,000 IU .
You May Like: Shrimp Is High In Cholesterol
How Is High Cholesterol Diagnosed
You cant tell if you have high cholesterol without having it checked. A simple blood test will reveal your cholesterol level.
Men 35 years of age and older and women 45 years of age and older should have their cholesterol checked. Men and women 20 years of age and older who have risk factors for heart disease should have their cholesterol checked. Teens may need to be checked if they are taking certain medicines or have a strong family history of high cholesterol. Ask your doctor how often you should have your cholesterol checked.
Risk factors for heart disease include:
- Cigarette smoking.
- Having an immediate family member who has had heart disease.
- Being overweight or obese.
How To Lower Your Cholesterol Numbers
If a recent blood test shows you have high or borderline-high cholesterol, its not all bad news.
Your cholesterol, especially your LDL, is incredibly responsive to lifestyle, Dr. Steinbaum says. So, after six weeks of healthy strategies such as eating right and exercising, you should start seeing changes.
There are other effective ways to lower your cholesterol levels and bolster your heart health, such as losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight if youre overweight. And its pretty easy to get started.
You May Like: Beer Raise Cholesterol
What Happens If You Have High Cholesterol
What does high cholesterol mean?
High cholesterol means there is too much cholesterol in your blood. This can clog up your arteries the large blood vessels that carry blood around your body. Over time, this can lead to serious problems.
How does cholesterol clog up your arteries?
Excess cholesterol can be laid down in the walls of your arteries. Fatty areas known as plaques can form, and these become harder with time, making the arteries stiffer and narrower. This process is called atherosclerosis.
When the arteries become narrower, its harder for blood to flow through them. This puts a strain on your heart because it has to work harder to pump blood around your body. Eventually, the heart can become weak and cant work as well as it should.
Blood clots can form over the fatty, hardened parts of the arteries. The blood clots can block the artery completely, cutting off the blood flow. Bits of the blood clots can break away and become lodged in an artery or vein in another part of the body, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Living With High Cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol, you are twice as likely to develop heart disease. That is why it is important to have your cholesterol levels checked, especially if you have a family history of heart disease. Reducing your LDL bad cholesterol through good diet, exercise, and medicine can make a positive impact on your overall health.
Recommended Reading: How Much Cholesterol In Skinless Chicken Breast
Leading Risk Factors Of High Cholesterol
While there is no single cause for high cholesterol, there are some leading risk factors for developing it. These include:
Smoking – Cigarette smoke damages the walls of your blood vessels, which makes them more prone to accumulate fatty deposits. Smoking can also lower your level of HDL cholesterol.
Diabetes – High blood sugar can damage the lining of your arteries. It also contributes to higher levels of dangerous cholesterol called very-low-density lipoprotein and lower HDL cholesterol.
Obesity – Having a body mass index of 30 or greater puts you at risk of high cholesterol.
Diagnosis Of High Cholesterol
In most cases, your doctor will find your high cholesterol through routine screening. A lipid panel usually measures total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol.
Your doctor may order other tests to help decide whether medicines are needed to lower your risk of heart and blood vessel diseases. These may include a coronary calcium scan, which uses computed tomography to detect calcium deposits in the arteries of your heart, and blood tests for levels of C-reactive protein and lipoprotein-a.
The American Heart Association recommends routine cholesterol screening for all adults after age 20, but your doctor may order lipid tests more often based on your individual and family risk.
Your doctor will ask about your eating habits, physical activity, family history, medicines you are taking, and risk factors for heart or blood vessel diseases. During your physical exam, your doctor will check for signs of very high blood cholesterol, such as xanthomas, or signs of other health conditions that can cause high blood cholesterol.
Also Check: Is Canned Tuna Good For High Cholesterol
Common Causes Of High Cholesterol And What To Do About Them
High cholesterol, a well-known health condition among Americans, is on the decline but remains a threat. The percentage of U.S. adults suffering from high cholesterol dropped by an impressive 6% between 2000 and 2016, from 18.3% down to just 12%. This is a step in a positive direction, but higher-than-recommended cholesterol is still a serious condition and prevention depends on a thorough understanding of its causes. High cholesterol is a key risk factor for heart disease and remains the leading cause of death in the United States.
High cholesterol is largely governed by lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and smoking and that means its both treatable and preventable. The following list will explore the five most common causes of high cholesterol and the best ways to achieve healthy levels.
Myth: I Would Be Able To Feel It If I Had High Cholesterol
Fact: High cholesterol usually has no signs or symptoms. You may not know you have unhealthy cholesterol levels until it is too latewhen you have a heart attack or stroke. Thats why its so important to get your cholesterol levels checked at least every 5 years.1,2 Learn more about getting your cholesterol checked.
Occasionally, some people develop yellowish growths on their skin called xanthomas, which are cholesterol-rich deposits. People with xanthomas may have high cholesterol levels.
Don’t Miss: Tuna Cholesterol Content
Hdl Cholesterol Or Good Cholesterol
HDL cholesterol is sometimes called good cholesterol. It helps return LDL cholesterol to your liver to be removed from your body. This helps prevent cholesterol plaque from building up in your arteries.
When you have healthy levels of HDL cholesterol, it can help lower your risk of blood clots, heart disease, and stroke.
How High Cholesterol Is Diagnosed
High cholesterol rarely results in any obvious symptoms. For this reason, a blood test is the only way to diagnose high cholesterol. Cholesterol is measured with a blood test called a lipid panel. This test can help determine your risk of atherosclerosis, which is a build-up of plaque that narrows or blocks arteries.
Target cholesterol levels vary based on factors such as age and family history.
You May Like: Does Shrimp Raise Your Cholesterol
How Fat And Cholesterol In Food Affect Blood Cholesterol Levels
The types of fat in the diet help determine the amount of total, HDL, and LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream. The types and amount of carbohydrate in the diet also play a role. Cholesterol in food matters, too, but not nearly as much.
- The discovery half a century ago that high blood cholesterol levels were strongly associated with an increased risk for heart disease triggered numerous warnings to avoid foods that contain cholesterol, especially eggs and liver. However, scientific studies show a weak relationship between the amount of cholesterol a person consumes and his or her blood cholesterol levels
- In studies of more than 80,000 female nurses, Harvard researchers found that consuming about an egg a day was not associated with higher risk of heart disease. However, people who have heart disease or diabetes should monitor egg consumption.
For most people, the amount of cholesterol eaten has only a modest impact on the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood. For some people, though, blood cholesterol levels rise and fall very strongly in relation to the amount of cholesterol eaten. For these responders, avoiding cholesterol-rich foods can have a substantial effect on blood cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, at this point there is no way other than by trial and error to identify responders from non-responders to dietary cholesterol.
Can High Cholesterol Be Prevented Or Avoided
Making healthy food choices and exercising are two ways to reduce your risk of developing high cholesterol.
Eat fewer foods with saturated fats . Choose healthier fats. This includes lean meats, avocados, nuts, and low-fat dairy items. Avoid foods that contain trans fat . Look for foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These foods include salmon, herring, walnuts, and almonds. Some egg brands contain omega-3.
Exercise can be simple. Go for a walk. Take a yoga class. Ride your bike to work. You could even participate in a team sport. Aim to get 30 minutes of activity every day.
Read Also: Are Potatoes Good For Cholesterol
Complications Of High Cholesterol
Since high cholesterol alone typically doesnt cause any symptoms, people only experience complications when their high cholesterol contributes to the development of severe heart disease, often in the form of heart attack or stroke. Over the long term, high cholesterol can cause plaque to form in your arteries, which can then narrow and lead to a cardiovascular emergency.
Cholesterol Myths And Facts
Cholesterol can be confusing! Learn answers to common questions about blood cholesterol.
What do your cholesterol numbers mean? Can the foods you eat change your cholesterol levels?
Learn the difference between cholesterol myth and fact. Then commit to getting your cholesterol checked this year so you know your numbers and your risk for heart disease and stroke.
Commit to getting your cholesterol checked this year so you know your numbers and your risk for heart disease and stroke.
Recommended Reading: Cholesterol Hydrophilic Or Hydrophobic
If A Product’s Package Reads Low Cholesterol Does That Mean That The Product Is Low In Fat And Safe To Eat
Not necessarily. Numerous foods marked “low cholesterol” can contain oils that may be high in saturated fats, which are not considered healthy. In addition, unsaturated fats like vegetable oil also can be high in calories. The total amount of fat in your diet should be kept to about 20-30 percent of your daily intake.
Maintain A Normal Weight
Having a BMI in the overweight or obese range highly correlates with having excess body fat, which in turn can affect how your body processes cholesterol. Excess body fat also slows down the ability to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood, raising your levels and increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
You May Like: Tuna Fish And Cholesterol
What Treatments Are Available For High Cholesterol
Treatment may include:
Addressing risk factors. Some risk factors that can be changed include lack of exercise and poor eating habits.
Cholesterol-lowering medicines. Medicines are used to lower fats in the blood, particularly LDL cholesterol. Statins are a group of medicines that can do this. The two most effective types are atorvastatin and rosuvastatin. Other medicines that lower cholesterol levels are ezetimibe and PCSK9 inhibitors.
Reasons You Might Have High Cholesterol
If youve ever had a blood test, its highly likely your doctor has checked your cholesterol level. Although I believe cholesterol is over rated, it is useful to know your blood level of this fat.
Cholesterol is a very important substance in your body. In fact, every cell of your body requires cholesterol to survive. Elevated cholesterol can be a risk factor for heart disease, but it is only one of many risk factors. Rather than rushing to take a drug or natural substance that lowers cholesterol, why not consider why your cholesterol is elevated in the first place?
Also Check: Does Shrimp Raise Cholesterol
Tingles In Your Hands And Feet
A sort of tingling sensation in your hands and your feet definitely isnt uncommon if youre dealing with too high cholesterol levels. Because of blocked blood vessels, the peripheral nerves in your feet and hands are also affected as theyre not getting enough oxygen and blood flow. This usually doesnt result in pain, but can induce a rather noticeable tingling sensation instead.
Good Vs Bad Cholesterol
When you take a cholesterol test, your doctor will measure the level of lipoprotein in your blood. Two specific lipoproteins, called HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol are what we commonly refer to as good and bad cholesterol.
LDL is the major carrier of cholesterol in the body. When you have too much LDL, the molecules are consumed by cells called macrophages that get trapped inside the walls of your blood vessels. This leads to cholesterol plaque buildup the main cause of heart attacks and strokes. For this reason, LDL is considered bad cholesterol.
On the other hand, HDL removes cholesterol from circulation by carrying cholesterol from the cells back to the liver through reverse transport. The liver then repurposes that cholesterol into bile or other essential tissues. The higher your HDL levels are, the less plaque buildup you have. This is why HDL is considered good cholesterol.
Read Also: Cholesterol Mayo
Lowering Cholesterol Through Diet
To help you achieve and maintain healthy cholesterol levels, your doctor may recommend changes to your diet.
For example, they may advise you to:
- limit your intake of foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats
- choose lean sources of protein, such as chicken, fish, and legumes
- eat a wide variety of high fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- opt for baked, broiled, steamed, grilled, and roasted foods instead of fried foods
- avoid fast food and sugary, pre-packaged options when possible
Foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, or trans fats include:
- red meat, organ meats, egg yolks, and high fat dairy products
- processed foods made with cocoa butter or palm oil
- deep-fried foods, such as potato chips, onion rings, and fried chicken
- certain baked goods, such as some cookies and muffins
Eating fish and other foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids may also help lower your LDL levels. For example, salmon, mackerel, and herring are rich sources of omega-3s. Walnuts, almonds, ground flaxseeds, and avocados also contain omega-3s.
How Can I Prevent High Cholesterol
Unfortunately, there are very few symptoms that point to a high cholesterol level. Oftentimes, people dont know they have high cholesterol until they have a heart attack or stroke. The good news is there are several measures you can take to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Perhaps the most important of them all is diet.The food you eat accounts for up to 30% of your bodys cholesterol, so you should avoid trans fats and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Also, all animal products contain at least some cholesterol, so try to consume them in moderation to avoid plaque buildup over time. The following foods are high in cholesterol:
- High-fat dairy products
- Fried food
- Processed food
Instead, try to incorporate foods into your diet that are high in fiber , omega-3 fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats . Stick to plant-based foods as much as possible and use whey protein as a supplement if needed. This is called the Mediterranean diet.
Lifestyle is another huge factor in heart health. Aim to exercise at least three times per week and quit smoking or vaping. And, as mentioned earlier, family history and genetic mutations often come into play.
Finally, the single best way to prevent high cholesterol levels is to get tested regularly. Experts suggest testing children between the ages of 9 and 11, and again between 17 and 19. Adults who have no obvious risk for heart disease should get tested every 5 years.
Don’t Miss: Pork Chop Cholesterol