How Much Cholesterol Do We Need
Cholesterol is in every cell of your body. Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones and help your brain, skin, and other organs work the way they should. But too much cholesterol in the blood can clog the arteries that carry blood around your body.
Cholesterol that builds up in a person’s blood vessels over many years could lead to:
- a heart attack that can damage the heart
- a stroke that can damage the brain
Cholesterol can start to build up in childhood and teen years. Doctors can find out what your cholesterol level is by ordering a blood test.
Medication And Regular Monitoring
A1C is an important tool for managing diabetes, but it doesnt replace regular blood sugar testing at home. Blood sugar goes up and down throughout the day and night, which isnt captured by your A1C. Two people can have the same A1C, one with steady blood sugar levels and the other with high and low swings.
If youre reaching your A1C goal but having symptoms of highs or lows, check your blood sugar more often and at different times of day. Keep track and share the results with your healthcare provider so you can make changes to your treatment plan and medications if needed.
How Fat Moves From Food To The Bloodstream
Fat and cholesterol cant dissolve in water or blood. Instead, the body packages fat and cholesterol into tiny, protein-covered particles called lipoproteins. Lipoproteins can transport a lot of fat they mix easily with blood and flow with it. Some of these particles are big and fluffy, while others are small and dense. The most important ones are low-density lipoproteins , high-density lipoproteins , and triglycerides.
- Low Density lipoproteins
Low-density lipoproteins carry cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body. Cells latch onto these particles and extract fat and cholesterol from them. When there is too much LDL cholesterol in the blood, these particles can form deposits in the walls of the coronary arteries and other arteries throughout the body. Such deposits, called plaque, can narrow arteries and limit blood flow. When plaque breaks apart, it can cause a heart attack or stroke. Because of this, LDL cholesterol is often referred to as bad, or harmful, cholesterol.
- High-density lipoproteins
High-density lipoproteins scavenge cholesterol from the bloodstream, from LDL, and from artery walls and ferry it back to the liver for disposal. Think of HDL as the garbage trucks of the bloodstream. HDL cholesterol is often referred to as good, or protective, cholesterol.
In general, the lower your LDL and the higher your HDL, the better your chances of preventing heart disease and other chronic conditions.
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Why Is Cholesterol Important To Our Bodies
Every cell in the body needs cholesterol, which helps the cell membranes form the layers. These layers protect the contents of the cell by acting as the gatekeeper to what things can enter or leave the cell. It is made by the liver and is also used by the liver to make bile, which helps you digest foods. Cholesterol is also needed to make certain hormones and to produce vitamin D. Your liver makes enough cholesterol to meet your bodys needs for these important functions.
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What Are The Risks Of High Ldl Cholesterol
Dr. Vasi Rdulescu, a famous Romanian doctor, reveals the risks of a high level
LDL cholesterol and how it can endanger your health.
High LDL cholesterol levels can cause you problems, including:
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart disease, including chest pain and heart attack
- Accident vascular cerebral
The guides used to focus on lowering bad cholesterol to a certain number. Now, you and your doctor will probably work together to find a way to reduce it by a certain percentage. It is based on how likely it is
you have a heart disease or stroke.
Doctors use a computer to estimate your chances of having these problems in the next 10 years. The computer considers several things, including:
- Your cholesterol level
- Whether you smoke or not
- If you are taking blood pressure medication
All of these things affect your chances of having a heart problem. Other risks include:
DiabetesA family history of heart diseaseHow to reduce high LDL cholesterolThe doctor will determine
a plan for lifestyle changes and / or medications that may lower your cholesterol and your overall chances of having a heart problem. The plan could include:
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What Is Happening To Me When I Have High Cholesterol
If your doctor has told you that your cholesterol is high, you probably have some questions: What is cholesterol anyway? How did mine get too high? How dangerous is it really? It may be hard to believe that high cholesterol is a problem at all, much less a potentially serious problem, because you may not have symptoms. Many people who have high cholesterol have it for years with no symptoms. Meanwhile, it can slowly, steadily damage your blood vessels. Eventually this damage may cause symptoms. Whether you have symptoms or not, damage to your blood vessels puts you at risk for peripheral vascular disease, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Here is what some people have said about having high cholesterol.
My cholesterol level was frightening, very high. Much higher than it is now with the medication that I take each evening. Now its down to 171 to 179. Of course you have to do exercise, pull away from the table, and stay away from all fast food. Jacques
What has been a motivation to me is simply just wanting to live. You know, enjoying life and having a family. Those have been the things that have been instrumental inside of me wanting to make certain changes. Darnell
Its important to keep my cholesterol down because I know I can get a heart attack. Thelma
What Are The Different Types Of Cholesterol
There are two main categories of cholesterol in the blood:
Low-density lipoprotein : Considered cholesterols bad form, LDL enables cholesterol to create deposits that build up and harden on the walls of blood vessels a condition called atherosclerosis .
When this happens in the coronary arteries , it reduces your hearts supply of oxygen-rich blood. This serious condition, called coronary artery disease, can cause heart attacks and even death.
Plaques can also form on the arteries that supply blood to your brain, abdomen, arms, and legs, leading to a higher risk of stroke, intestinal damage, and peripheral arterial disease.
High-density lipoprotein :HDL is the good kind of cholesterol, because it helps reduce LDL levels.
The role of HDL is to transport LDL cholesterol to your liver, which removes it from your blood.
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How To Know If You Need Treatment
Everyone with high cholesterol should start with heart-healthy lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, quitting smoking, and weight loss. But if your cardiac risk is high, you may need treatment with medications, too.
Your doctor can use a formula to calculate a score that shows your risk of a heart attack in the next 10 to even 30 years.
Your cardiac risk is based on a combination of these things:
- Smoking habit or past smoking habit
- Heart disease or family history of early heart disease
You may not need to treat high cholesterol with medications like statins now if you are:
- 19 or younger and donât have FH
- 20-39, with no family history of early heart disease, and your LDL is below 160 mg/dL
- 40-75, and your cardiac risk is low
- 40-75, and your cardiac risk is borderline
- 40-75, and your cardiac risk is intermediate
- Have advanced liver disease
If your cardiac risk score is borderline or intermediate: Your doctor may talk with you about the risks and benefits of cholesterol-lowering drugs, including possible side effects.
Ask yourself if youâre ready to stick with a healthy diet, weight loss, and exercise. If youâre not, you may want to treat high cholesterol with medication.
If your cardiac risk is intermediate or unclear, but youâre not sure if you want to take medication to treat your high cholesterol, your doctor may suggest one of these heart disease screening tests:
Coronary calcium scan
Carle Health: âHigh Triglycerides.â
How Can I Lower My Cholesterol Level
The first step in reducing your cholesterol is to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. It’s important to keep your diet low in fatty food.
You can swap food containing saturated fat for fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals. This will also help prevent high cholesterol returning.
Other lifestyle changes, such as taking regular exercise and giving up smoking, can also make a big difference in helping to lower your cholesterol.
If these measures don’t reduce your cholesterol and you continue to have a high risk of developing heart disease, your GP may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication, such as statins.
Your GP will take into account the risk of any side effects from statins. The benefit of lowering your cholesterol must outweigh any risks.
Read more about how high cholesterol is treated
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What Causes High Hdl Levels
A few things can push your HDL level above 60 mg/dL. You can control some of these factors. Others you canât.
Your genes. Certain genes make you more likely to have high HDL cholesterol. Inherited high HDL sometimes protects against heart disease, but sometimes it increases the risk.
For example, people with a change in the gene SCARB1 have larger than normal HDL cholesterol particles in their blood that increase their heart disease risk.
Some people of Japanese descent inherit genes that make them produce too little of the protein CETP, which helps carry cholesterol around the body. Having low CETP leads to high HDL levels in your blood, but it doesn’t seem to increase the risk for heart disease.
If you have high HDL and close relatives like your parents or siblings have had heart disease, a heart attack, or a stroke, your doctor might send you to a genetic counselor or cardiologist for more testing.
Your diet. Foods that are high in unsaturated fats, such as fish, nuts, and green leafy vegetables raise HDL in a good way. Other foods increase HDL cholesterol too much. They are some of the same foods that also raise unhealthy LDL cholesterol, like:
- Cream and other full-fat dairy products
- Cookies, cakes, and other baked goods
Drinking too much alcohol can also raise HDL levels.
Medications. Medicines like these can increase HDL levels:
Neck Pain And Headaches
Because high cholesterol leads to the blocking of arteries, theres a good chance that the blood flow to and from your head can be disturbed. The result is a sore neck and sudden headaches on an occasional basis, and you might even deal with some pain in your shoulders as well. A nagging headache in the back is a very good indication of excessive cholesterol levels according to doctors.
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Types Of Saturated Fat Reviewed
The health effects of saturated fats are a controversial topic.
In the past, saturated fat was widely believed to be a major cause of heart disease. Today, scientists are not entirely convinced.
One thing is clear saturated fat is not a single nutrient. Its a group of different fatty acids with varying effects on health and metabolism.
This article takes a detailed look at the 10 most common saturated fatty acids, including their health effects and dietary sources.
General Guidelines For Eating Heart Healthy
There are some general nutritional guidelines that you should follow in order to stay heart healthy. When you go to the grocery store, pick up the items listed below. Notice that you wont be going on the inside aisles of the grocery store. More likely you will be working the parameter or outside aisle. Thats where you will find whole, heart healthy foods. Leave the frozen foods and packaged foods on the shelf. You will want to pick up some packaged foods from the middle aisles, but they will be whole grain products. This is good. We want you shopping for real, not processed foods for the most part. They are simply healthier for you.
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Maybe Shes Born With It
High cholesterol due to genetics is called familial hypercholesterolemia . People with FH are born with high cholesterol because their bodies cant process LDL correctly.
FH is one of the most common inherited diseases, affecting 1 in 220 adults. People with FH have a 13 times greater risk of heart disease. Untreated FH can result in chronically high cholesterol levels and heart disease.
How Can I Lower My Cholesterol
Talk with your healthcare provider about the best way to lower your cholesterol. Some people only need some simple lifestyle changes like eating less saturated fat. Others need lifestyle changes plus medication. People with medical conditions that affect their cholesterol may need a more complex approach. Talk with your provider about your medical history, family history and lifestyle factors. Together, youll come up with a plan for lowering your cholesterol numbers.
Remember that even the best plans take time to work. And we all have setbacks. Its OK to struggle, and its also OK to tell your provider when a plan isnt working. Sometimes even the strictest lifestyle changes dont lower your cholesterol numbers enough. Thats because most of your bodys cholesterol is produced by your liver. So, many other factors come into play that are out of your control and have nothing to do with whats on your dinner plate.
Take things one step at a time, and remember that having high cholesterol isnt a personal failure. Its a result of many small changes quietly happening inside your body. Take control of what you can, but know that medications and other medical interventions are there to fill in the gaps.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/24/2022.
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Medication May Be Needed
For some people, diet and lifestyle changes are not enough. High blood cholesterol levels often have a genetic component. Some people inherit altered genes that cause high cholesterol and this cannot usually be changed sufficiently by lifestyle or diet.
If you are at risk of coronary heart disease and your LDL cholesterol level doesnt drop after scrupulous attention to diet, your doctor may recommend medications to force your blood LDL levels down. Cell cholesterol levels, however, remain normal, so lowering blood cholesterol has no effect on most cell metabolic processes.
Some people get muscle aches from statins, which are the most commonly used medication to lower blood cholesterol. However, diet and exercise will still be important, even if you are taking medication. Your doctor may also refer you to a specialist who treats cardiovascular disease.
What You Dont Know Can Hurt You
One of the things thats most dangerous about having high cholesterol is that youre unlikely to know it without a blood test. That means you could be living with an increased risk of heart attack or stroke and have no idea.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends having your cholesterol checked at least every five years. If your total cholesterol reaches over 200 mg/dL, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes or more frequent screenings.
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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.
How Do I Know What My Ldl Level Is
A blood test can measure your cholesterol levels, including LDL. When and how often you should get this test depends on your age, risk factors, and family history. The general recommendations are:
For people who are age 19 or younger::
- The first test should be between ages 9 to 11
- Children should have the test again every 5 years
- Some children may have this test starting at age 2 if there is a family history of high blood cholesterol, heart attack, or stroke
For people who are age 20 or older::
- Younger adults should have the test every 5 years
- Men ages 45 to 65 and women ages 55 to 65 should have it every 1 to 2 years
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Prevention Of High Cholesterol
Regularly monitoring your cholesterol levels can also help prevent your numbers from getting too high or low. In general, healthy adults should check their cholesterol every four to six years, but your doctor may ask to check your cholesterol more often depending on your age, overall health, and other risk factors. There are other ways to prevent high cholesterol, too
How High Is Too High
Very high HDL cholesterol levels not only dont protect you more, but they might be harmful. In one study, people who had HDL cholesterol levels above 60 mg/dL were nearly 50% more likely to have a heart attack or die from heart disease than people whose HDL levels were between 41 and 60 mg/dL.
Why might higher HDL levels be harmful? Researchers dont know for sure, but they have some ideas.
Very high HDL levels could slow the process of clearing LDL cholesterol from your arteries. When LDL cholesterol builds up in these blood vessels, it forms clumps called plaques that slow or block blood flow. Eventually a chunk of plaque can break free and form a clot, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke.
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