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.
Symptoms Of High Cholesterol
Often, there are no specific symptoms of high cholesterol. You could have high cholesterol and not know it.
If you have high cholesterol, your body may store the extra cholesterol in your arteries. These are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. A buildup of cholesterol in your arteries is known as plaque. Over time, plaque can become hard and make your arteries narrow. Large deposits of plaque can completely block an artery. Cholesterol plaques can also break apart, leading to formation of a blood clot that blocks the flow of blood.
A blocked artery to the heart can cause a heart attack. A blocked artery to your brain can cause a stroke.
Many people dont discover that they have high cholesterol until they suffer one of these life-threatening events. Some people find out through routine check-ups that include blood tests.
What Is The Difference Between Good Cholesterol And Bad Cholesterol
Good cholesterol is known as high-density lipoprotein . It removes cholesterol from the bloodstream. Low-density lipoprotein is the bad cholesterol.
If your total cholesterol level is high because of a high LDL level, you may be at higher risk of heart disease or stroke. But, if your total cholesterol level is high only because of a high HDL level, youre probably not at higher risk.
Triglycerides are another type of fat in your blood. When you eat more calories than your body can use, it turns the extra calories into triglycerides.
Changing your lifestyle can improve your cholesterol levels, lower LDL and triglycerides, and raise HDL.
Your ideal cholesterol level will depend on your risk for heart disease.
- Total cholesterol level; less than 200 is best, but it depends on your HDL and LDL levels.
- LDL cholesterol levels; less than 130 is best, but this depends on your risk for heart disease.
- HDL cholesterol levels; 60 or higher reduces your risk for heart disease.
- Triglycerides; less than 150 milligrams per deciliter is best.
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Reducing Heart Disease Naturally
One thing that this study does show is that cardiovascular disease is complicated.
The study also brings to light another fact about cholesterol drugs are not the only way to lower your LDL levels.
Most doctors who prescribe statins for high cholesterol will also recommend that patients exercise more and eat healthier foods.
But more hospitals and doctors offices are starting to promote lifestyle changes as a way for patients to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and LDL levels using diet and exercise alone.
Often this approach involves a whole food or plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes like chickpeas and lentils, healthy fats like those in olive oil and avocado, and dairy alternatives.
For many, this diet will be a challenge to switch to. But there is a growing body of research on its benefits.
How Can You Prevent High Cholesterol Levels And Coronary Heart Disease
Prevention methods are very much the same as treatment methods. First, dont smoke. If you do smoke, make plans to quit now. Find ways to add physical activity to each of your days. Take steps to keep your weight in a healthy range. Eat well. Consider following the Mediterranean diet. It is the only diet proven to reduce the risk of heart disease. Take care of any other medical conditions you might have by following your healthcare providers advice and instructions. Learn to really relax and calm down.
How Low Is Too Low
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in your blood. In the right amounts, it helps keep you healthy. You have two types of it in your bloodstream.
- Low-density lipoprotein is âbadâ cholesterol that can build up in the walls of your arteries over time. Most of the cholesterol in your body is made up of this type.
- High-density lipoprotein is âgoodâ cholesterol that helps remove the âbadâ kind from your bloodstream.
- Your ideal total cholesterol level should be around 150. Your LDL levels should be around 100 mg/dL. This range helps put you at a low risk of heart disease.
- Less than 120 mg/dL total cholesterol or an LDL level less than 50 mg/dL is very low.
When Should My Cholesterol Levels Be Tested
Your GP may recommend that you have your blood cholesterol levels tested if you:
- have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, stroke or mini stroke , or peripheral arterial disease
- have a family history of early;cardiovascular disease
- have a close family member who has a cholesterol-related condition
- are overweight
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What Do The Results Mean
Cholesterol is usually measured in milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood. The information below shows how the different types of cholesterol measurements are categorized.
|Total Cholesterol Level|
|Less than 40 mg/dL||A major risk factor for heart disease|
A healthy cholesterol range for you may depend on your age, family history, lifestyle, and other risk factors. In general, low LDL levels and high HDL cholesterol levels are good for heart health. High levels of triglycerides may also put you at risk for heart disease.
The LDL on your results may say “calculated” which means it includes a calculation of total cholesterol, HDL, and triglycerides. Your LDL level may also be measured “directly,” without using other measurements. Regardless, you want your LDL number to be low.
Learn more about laboratory tests, reference ranges, and understanding results.
Work With Your Doctor On A Lower Cholesterol Plan
Lowering your cholesterol doesnt mean going it alone. Your primary care doctor is a helpful partner along your journey.
Your doctor can work with you to create an action plan just for you one that combines diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes to help you lower and manage your cholesterol.
For example, losing weight and quitting smoking can be big helpers for lowering cholesterol. Quitting smoking can raise your good HDL cholesterol levels, and losing weight can lower your bad LDL cholesterol levels significantly.
But these two tasks arent easy. Fortunately, your primary care doctor can be a great resource to help you get started and find practical ways to stick with it. Plus, help with quitting smoking and losing weight may already be covered if you have health insurance.
Whether you want to quit smoking, lose weight or just learn more about how your personal health would benefit from lower cholesterol levels, regular check-ins with your doctor are key. They can also perform cholesterol tests the only way to actually measure cholesterol to check your progress and help you make adjustments based on the results.
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Myth: All Cholesterol Is Bad For You
Fact:;Some types of cholesterol are essential for good health. Your body needs cholesterol to perform important jobs, such as making hormones and building cells. Cholesterol travels through the blood on proteins called;lipoproteins. Two types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout the body:
- LDL ,;sometimes called bad;cholesterol,;makes up most of your bodys cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol raise your risk for heart disease and stroke.
- HDL ,;or good;cholesterol,;carries cholesterol back to the liver. The liver then flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL cholesterol can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.
When your body has too much LDL cholesterol, it can build up in the walls of your blood vessels. This buildup is called;plaque. As your blood vessels build up plaque over time, the insides of the vessels narrow. This narrowing can restrict and eventually block blood flow to and from your heart and other organs. When blood flow to the heart is blocked, it can cause angina or a heart attack.
The Pros And Cons Of Total Cholesterol Hdl Ldl And Triglyceride Testing
Time to get your cholesterol checked. Okay, but which test should you get? It’s not so simple anymore. Here is a rundown of some of the choices and their pros and cons:
Total cholesterol.;This is the simplest and least expensive test. The test doesn’t require any sophisticated lab work, either. The simple, do-it-yourself home cholesterol tests measure total cholesterol.
But total cholesterol includes both “good” high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and the “bad” varieties, chiefly low-density lipoprotein and very-low-density lipoprotein . So, if your total cholesterol is in the desirable category, it’s possible that you may have unhealthy levels of HDL and LDL and VLDL . Think of total cholesterol as a first glimpse, a peek. Doctors are not supposed to make any treatment decisions based on this number alone.
Cholesterol levels can be lowered by stress or infection. An injury, cancer,;stroke, or heart attack may have the same effect. So, if your cholesterol levels are unusually high or low, your doctor will probably want to repeat the test some weeks later. Abnormal readings may also lead to tests for other medical problems.
HDL cholesterol.;HDL wins its laurels as the “good” cholesterol because it sponges up cholesterol from blood vessel walls and ferries it to the liver for disposal. In contrast, LDL deposits the harmful fat in vessel walls.
An HDL level of 60 or above is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, and below 40 is associated with a higher risk.
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Can Your Cholesterol Be Too Low
Unlike a lot of men, the writer never worried about cholesterol — until some surprising studies linked low cholesterol to violent behavior.
“But wait,” I object, telling her that my cholesterol level has always been on the low side. No use. Not once but twice, she jabs the tip of my finger and squeezes out a few drops of blood to test. The numbers remain stubbornly low: barely over 120. The average for most people is around 180.
As usual, I feel an absurd swell of pride at the results of the blood test, as if I’ve just passed an exam with flying colors. I’ve always counted myself lucky. Unlike a lot of men, I don’t have to worry about cholesterol — that notorious clogger of arteries.
Or so I thought. Then, a few months ago I read a headline that made me wonder: Low Cholesterol Linked to Violence, Suicide.
Violence? Suicide? Is it possible that someone’s cholesterol level might be too low?
Low Cholesterol And Preterm Birth Or A Baby With Low Weight
In a study, published in the October 2007 issue of the journal; Pediatrics, nearly 13% of the women with very low cholesterol gave birth prematurely.
The researchers also found that white women were more at risk and that almost 21% of white women with the very low cholesterol levels had preterm deliveries.
On an average, the preterm babies of mothers with low cholesterol weighed five ounces less than babies delivered full term to mothers with moderate cholesterol.
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Prevention And Prognosis Of Low Cholesterol
Low cholesterol prevention isnt something that most people think about because it is usually high cholesterol that makes the headlines. The best way to keep cholesterol levels in balance is to get regular check-ups. Maintaining a heart-healthy diet and living an active life can also go a long way in keeping your cholesterol levels in check. It is also helpful to be aware of any family history connected to cholesterol problems and pay close attention to symptoms of anxiety, particularly if they make you feel really aggressive or violent.
If you or someone in your family shows signs of low cholesterol, you might be concerned about low cholesterol prognosis. It is true that low cholesterol has been associated with some serious health complications, such as intracerebral hemorrhage, but this typically happens in older adults. Women with low cholesterol also run the risk of having low birth weight or even premature babies. Sadly, low cholesterol has also been deemed a risk factor for suicide.
If you are ever diagnosed with low cholesterol, dont be afraid to talk to your doctor about your concerns. It is important to remain open and report all of your symptoms, including any feelings of anxiety or depression, so thatyour health care provider can guide you to the best possible treatment.
How Low Can Ldl Go
Research done on cholesterol-lowering statins has shown that the risk of cardiovascular disease decreases at lower levels of LDL cholesterol.
But doctors havent known how low cholesterol can go and still reduce risk of heart problems and stroke.
One reason for this is that previous drug studies either didnt look specifically at outcomes for people whose LDL cholesterol dropped to very low or ultra-low levels.
Or if they did, there were not enough of those patients to make the statistical analysis useful.
So researchers from the FOURIER study reanalyzed the data with an eye toward these lower cholesterol levels. The results were published Aug. 28 in The Lancet.
The new analysis suggests that the benefits of lowering your LDL cholesterol continue to increase the lower you go, even at ultra-low levels, at least in terms of reducing your risk of developing heart problems or stroke.
There was also no increase in safety concerns for this group, compared with people whose LDL didnt drop as much.
However, there are some limitations.
Since researchers followed people for only two years, they dont know if the ultra-low LDL levels translate to a lower risk of dying over the long run.
Some health problems also only show up after taking a drug for years.
And lower LDL cholesterol levels dont always mean an overall health benefit.
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How Is Very Low Ldl Cholesterol Treated
The first concern is to raise the LDL from +/- 40 mg/dL and bring it to at least around +/- 70 to 80 mg/dL. This will reduce the risk of the complications.
Early treatment in neonates can prevent the further progression of the neurological problems as well as the degeneration of the retina.
Vitamin E in the dose of 100 mg/body weight will set right the low vitamin E levels in the body tissues.
Plasma levels of tocopherol, however, may still be below the normal. Tocopherols;are a member of the vitamin E family naturally present in vegetable oils, nuts, fish and leafy green vegetables.
Dietary fat is restricted to control steatorrhea.
Deficiency of vitamins A, D, and K is treated with replacement therapy.
Infants and children who are identified with homozygous FHBL or ABL require prompt treatment with very high doses of vitamin E.;Heterogeneous patients require Vitamin E in modest doses
Adults may develop complications, which are treated according to the merits and demerits.
Dietary management consists of restricting intake of long-chain fatty acids to 15 g per day. This will improve the complications due to fat malabsorption.
Very large doses of oral vitamin E at 100-300 mg/kg/day t in homozygotes to avoid neurological problems. This will raise the tissue levels of vitamin E.
Heterogeneous adult patients require Vitamin E in modest doses
Vitamin A supplementation is given in cases where there is vitamin K depletion.
What Level Of Cholesterol Is Too Low
But is it possible for your cholesterol to be too low? Yes. While less common, low cholesterol can affect your health as well.
Cholesterol levels that are considered too low:
- Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol: lower than 40 mg/dL
- High-density lipoprotein cholesterol: lower than 40 mg/dL
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Your Test Results: A Preview
Your test results will show your cholesterol levels in milligrams per deciliter of blood . Your total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol are among numerous factors your doctor can use to predict your lifetime or 10-year risk for a heart attack or stroke. Your doctor will also consider other risk factors, such as age, family history, smoking status, diabetes;and high blood pressure.
Lipid profile or lipid panel is a blood test that will give you results for your HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and total blood 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.
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Why Cholesterol Matters For Women
Erin Donnelly Michos, M.D., M.H.S.
Ah, cholesterol and triglycerides. We hear about them all the time. Even foods that might seem good for you on the surface, like fruit-filled yogurt or bran muffins, can contribute to abnormal levels if they contain too much saturated fat or refined sugar, says Erin Michos, M.D., associate director of preventive cardiology at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease.
Whats more, many women are at risk for high cholesterol and dont realize it. Approximately 45 percent of women over the age of 20 have a total cholesterol of 200 mg/dl and above, which is considered elevated but a survey by the American Heart Association found that 76 percent of women say they dont even know what their cholesterol values are, Michos says.
Scarier still: Triglycerides, a type of blood fat typically measured alongside cholesterol, are even more risky in women compared with men. This is a problem because womens cholesterol levels can fluctuate quite a bit after menopause and tend to increase with age, putting us at greater risk of heart disease and stroke. Knowing your cholesterol numbers and how to control them is a big step toward staying healthy.