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.
Lifestyle Tips To Cut Cholesterol
Changing some of your lifestyle habits may also help to reduce your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Suggestions include:
- Cease alcohol consumption or reduce your alcohol intake to no more than one or two drinks a day. Avoid binge drinking. This may help lower your triglyceride levels.
- Dont smoke. Smoking increases the ability of LDL cholesterol to get into artery cells and cause damage.
- Exercise regularly . Exercise increases HDL levels while reducing LDL and triglyceride levels in the body.
- Lose any excess body fat. Being overweight may contribute to raised blood triglyceride and LDL levels.
- Control your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. High blood sugars are linked to an increased risk of atherosclerosis , heart attacks and strokes.
How Cholesterol Moves Around The Body
Cholesterol is a white, insoluble and waxy substance. It is carried around the body by two key transport systems in the blood, which include:
- Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol carries most of the cholesterol that is delivered to cells. It is called the bad cholesterol because when its level in the bloodstream is high, it can clog up your arteries.
- High-density lipoprotein cholesterol is called the good cholesterol, because it helps remove excess cholesterol out of the cells, including cells in the arteries.
You May Like: Does Tuna Have Good Or Bad Cholesterol
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.
Are Home Cholesterol Testing Kits Accurate
The answer is yes if the tests are labeled CDC-certified. This means that the contents have been approved by the Cholesterol Reference Method Laboratory Network, a group that works with test makers, laboratories and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make sure tests are accurate.
For home tests, you will still need to fast for 12 hours and to obtain blood for testing. Some kits come with packages for mailing to a lab for results. Other kits have a monitor so you can get the results at home. The cost of such home kits vary.
You May Like: Is Tuna Good For High Cholesterol
How It Starts And How It Progresses
Atherosclerosis is a slow, lifelong progression of changes in the blood vessels that may start in childhood and get worse faster as you age.
The cause of atherosclerosis isnt completely known.
Many scientists believe plaque begins when an arterys inner lining becomes damaged. Four possible causes of such damage are:
Does Stress Cause High Cholesterol
While stress is not a primary cause of high cholesterol, it may still have an effect on cholesterol levels. A study published in May 2017 in the journal Medicine found that in people who experienced stress due to work or personal conflict, higher stress was a risk factor for high cholesterol. And when you are feeling stressed and pressed for time, you may be less likely to follow heart-healthy lifestyle measures, such as eating a nutritious diet and getting exercise. The 2017 study found that regular physical exercise had a strong protective effect against cholesterol.
Also Check: How Much Cholesterol In Pork Chops
How Is The Total Cholesterol Or Blood Cholesterol Test Done
A blood test is a routine test. A phlebotomist is the person whose job it is to draw blood. Blood is usually drawn from the vein in your arm. You will sit down and the phlebotomist will wrap a rubber band around your upper arm so that the vein in your elbow sticks out. Then they will use a needle to puncture the vein and remove blood. The blood is sent to the lab to be examined.
Youve probably been at health fairs where testing is offered. In that case, the person performing the test takes a drop of blood from your finger. The finger stick test uses a small blade to poke a hole in the tip of your finger to get the blood.
What Does Hdl Cholesterol Do
HDL clears from the body via the liver. HDL may therefore prevent the buildup of plaque, protect your arteries, and protect you from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. It is considered the good cholesterol, and higher levels are better. A good goal to aim for is higher than 55 mg/dL for women and 45 mg/dL for men. The higher your HDL cholesterol numbers, the lower your risk is for heart disease, vascular disease, and stroke.
You May Like: Does Shrimp Have High Cholesterol
What Are The Different Types Of Cholesterol
Cholesterol does not travel freely through the bloodstream. Instead, it is attached or carried by lipoproteins in the blood. There are three types of lipoproteins that are categorized based upon how much protein there is in relation to the amount of cholesterol.
Low-density lipoproteins contain a higher ratio of cholesterol to protein and are thought of as the bad cholesterol. Elevated levels of LDL lipoprotein increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease, by helping form cholesterol plaque along the inside of artery walls. Over time, as plaque buildup increases, the artery narrows , and blood flow decreases. If the plaque ruptures, it can cause a blood clot to form that prevents any blood flow. This clot is the cause of a heart attack or myocardial infarction if the clot occurs in one of the coronary arteries in the heart.
High-density lipoproteins are made up of a higher level of protein and a lower level of cholesterol. These tend to be thought of as good cholesterol. The higher the HDL to LDL ratio, the better it is for the individual because such ratios can potentially be protective against heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.
Very low-density lipoproteins contain even less protein than LDL. VLDL like LDL has been associated with plaque deposits.
Triglycerides may increase cholesterol-containing plaques if levels of LDL are high and HDL is low.
How Is High Cholesterol Treated
There are several ways to lower high blood cholesterol , including lifestyle changes or medication, or both. Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine which therapy is best for you.
Healthcare providers like to start with the least invasive treatments when possible, such as lifestyle changes. Youll be advised to:
- Avoid tobacco. If you do smoke, quit. Smoking is bad for you in many ways, and reducing your level of good cholesterol is one of them.
- Change the way you eat. Limit the amount of trans fats and saturated fat. Eat heart-healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish and whole grains. Limit red meat, sugary products and dairy products made with whole milk.
- Get more exercise. Try to get about 150 minutes of physical activity every week, or about 30 minutes per day for most days of the week.
- Keep a healthy weight. If you need to lose weight, talk to your healthcare provider about safe ways to do this. Youll see results even before you reach your ideal weight. Losing even 10% of your body weight makes a difference in your cholesterol levels.
- Reduce the effect of negative emotions. Learn healthy ways to deal with anger, stress or other negative emotions.
- Control blood sugar and blood pressure. Make sure you follow your healthcare providers instructions for blood sugar levels, especially if you have diabetes, and for keeping blood pressure in the healthy range.
- Atorvastatin .
- Simvastatin .
- Pitavastatin .
Also Check: Cholesterol In Pork Chop
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.
What Are Normal Levels Of Cholesterol
Normal levels of cholesterol are different depending on your age and sex. These guidelines show desirable total, non-HDL,LDL and HDL levels by age and sex.
Table 1: Target cholesterol levels by age and sex
|Age and sex|
People aged 19 years and younger Men aged 20 years and olderWomen aged 20 years and older
The table above spells out the numbers for normal cholesterol levels. The table below shows you cholesterol levels that are higher than normal. High cholesterol numbers vary by age group and sex, and may be different for those who have heart disease. These guidelines represent high cholesterol numbers for those who do not have heart disease.
Table 2: High total, non-HDL and LDL cholesterol levels by age and sex
|Age and sex|
|People aged 19 years and younger|
Borderline: 170-199 mg/dL
High: Greater than or equal to 200 mg/dL
Borderline: 120-144 mg/dL
High: Greater than or equal to 145 mg/dL
Borderline: 110-129 mg/dL
High: Greater than or equal to 130 mg/dL
High: Greater than or equal to 239 mg/dL
Near optimal or above optimal: 100-129 mg/dL
Borderline high: 130-159 mg/dL
Very high: Greater than 189 mg/dL
High: Greater than or equal to 239 mg/dL
Near optimal or above optimal: 100-129 mg/dL
Borderline high: 130-159 mg/dL
Very high: Greater than 189 mg/dL
LDL cholesterol levels
If you do not have heart disease or blood vessel disease, and you are not at high risk for developing heart disease, the optimal number is less than 100 mg/dL.
Recommended Reading: Is Shrimp Bad For Your Cholesterol
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 Is A Good Cholesterol Level
To understand cholesterol levels, it is first helpful to understand how cholesterol is measured. Cholesterol is not floating around in your bloodstream by itself. If it was, it would just be globs of fat that would not be able to use. For cholesterol to be useful, it attaches to proteins before it enters the blood. These combinations of cholesterol and proteins are called lipoproteins. There are several types of lipoproteins, but the two that receive the most attention are:
Also Check: Is Bone Marrow High In Cholesterol
How Do I Know If My Cholesterol Is Too High
There are no symptoms that can warn you when your cholesterol level is high. You can have high cholesterol and never know it. A lipid panel blood test is the only way to determine whether or not you have high cholesterol.
It is generally recommended that men and women over 20 years of age should have their cholesterol levels checked every 5 years. However, if your test results are outside of the recommended range, you should check them more often. Other factors related to your health, your family medical history and your lifestyle will also affect how often you should have your cholesterol levels checked. As always, talk to your doctor about the frequency that is best for you.
How Does Oxldl Increase Cardiac Risk
Research has shown that in patients with elevated oxidized cholesterol levels there is a significant increase in cardiac events.
Oxidized LDLs contribute to cardiovascular disease through a number of mechanisms.
Here are the main results of oxLDL on cardiac risk:
In summary, high ox LDL can lead to:
- Increased risk for heart attack, blood clot, or coronary artery disease
Recommended Reading: Are Egg Beaters Low In Cholesterol
What Is Considered High Cholesterol
Lipid panel results that fall outside of the desired range place you at higher risk of heart disease and stroke:
Borderline High 200 to 239 mg/dL
High at or above 240 mg/dL
Near-Optimal 100 to 129 mg/dL
Borderline High 130 to 159 mg/dL
High 160 to 189 mg/dL
Very High at or above 190 mg/dL
Borderline High 150 to 199 mg/dL
High 200 to 499 mg/dL
Very High at or above 500 mg/dL
What Are The Complications Of High Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol levels can cause a number of complications, chief among them being atherosclerosis, which is an accumulation of cholesterol and other substances in the walls of the arteries, forming deposits called plaque. The accumulation of plaque can cause complications such as:
- angina, or chest pain which occurs when blood supply to your heart is affected due to clogged arteries
- heart attack, if the plaque-ridden arteries rupture and blood clots form
- stroke, if the blood flow to the brain is blocked due to clogged arteries
Recommended Reading: Can Keto Cause High Cholesterol
How Do You Prepare For A Cholesterol Test
In most cases, youll need to fast for nine to 12 hours before the test. Make sure you tell the person drawing your blood how long it has been since you ate or drank anything that wasnt water.
There are some cases when a cholesterol test is done without fasting. This is true for tests done at health screenings and may be true for people younger than 20 or for people who are unable to fast.
Some medical societies believe that fasting is not necessary to get a true picture of lipid levels in the blood, while other associations stand by the belief that fasting gives a better idea of a persons heart disease risk. You should be clear on whether or not you need to fast, and for how long, before you go for the blood test.
Can You Get Rid Of Cholesterol Deposits
Researchers are working on ways to eliminate plaque from coronary arteries. One method that has been proposed involves using combinations of medicines in healthy people aged 25 to 55 years. It is suggested that getting the levels of cholesterol down very low will allow arteries to clear up and heal up.
Several researchers believe that the way to reverse heart disease, and to prevent it in the first place, is found in a whole food, plant-based diet. Studies have been done that have shown that limiting nutrition to whole foods that are plant-based have been successful in reducing blood cholesterol and even, in some cases, lessening plaque buildup.
Also Check: Pork Chops Cholesterol
Can High Cholesterol Cause Erectile Dysfunction
High cholesterol alone is not thought to cause erectile dysfunction , but plaque-clogged arteries can, because blood flow is essential to an erection, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Too much cholesterol may also affect the bodys ability to produce the hormone testosterone, as well as nitric oxide, which helps relax the penile tissue. Both of these factors can lead to ED as well.
The good news is that in older men with both high cholesterol and ED, taking statins medications used to treat high cholesterol is associated with a significant improvement in ED, according to research presented at the American College of Cardiologys 63rd Annual Scientific Session.