Friday, April 12, 2024
HomeEditor PicksWhat Is Cholesterol And Why Is It Important

What Is Cholesterol And Why Is It Important

What Numbers Should I Look For

Why is cholesterol important?

Some recommend that everyone over age 20 should get their cholesterol levels measured at least once every 5 years. The test that is performed is a blood test called a lipoprotein profile. That includes:

  • Total cholesterol level

What Affects Cholesterol Levels?

A variety of factors can affect your cholesterol levels. They include:

What Is Your Cholesterol Ratio

However, cholesterol ratio has a different formula, but also a different meaning. To calculate your cholesterol ratio, you have to divide your total cholesterol by your good cholesterol reading. If your total cholesterol is 200, and your good cholesterol is 80, the resulting number is 2.5, which is your total cholesterol.

Experts have stated that the best cholesterol ratio is 3.5, but everyone should aim to keep this number below 5 at all times.

Its important to underline the fact that there might be differences in the cholesterol ratio of two people that have an identical level of total cholesterol. The cholesterol ratio should be interpreted as the level of risk of having heart disease.

As an example, lets assume that two people have the same level of total cholesterol, for instance, 200. One of these people has an HDL reading of 80, which means that their cholesterol ratio is 2.5. The other person has an HDL reading of 40, which means that their cholesterol ratio is 5, the threshold that warns of potential heart disease. Because of the different cholesterol ratio between these two people, one of them falls under a higher risk category.

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:

You May Like: Is Mayo Bad For Cholesterol

Good Vs Bad Cholesterol

For a very long time, people have thought of cholesterol as a negative thing, but cholesterol can actually be both good and bad. What a lot of people dont know is that the liver produces cholesterol all on its own, without the need for any external intervention.

The body has two main types of cholesterol:

  • Bad cholesterol, which is known as LDL , is made up of proteins and fat. Bad cholesterol is transported to your arteries, and eventually create deposits on the artery walls. In time, these deposits turn into plaques, which can restrict blood flow, thus interfering with normal blood circulation inside the arteries. This plaque build-up is known as atherosclerosis. These plaques can also lead to the formation of blood clots, which are very dangerous because they interrupt blood supply to the heart and brain, thus increasing the odds of a heart attack or a stroke.
  • Good cholesterol is known as HDL , and is also a combination of proteins and fat. What HDL does is to transport cholesterol to the liver, which then eliminates it from your bloodstream. Basically, HDL helps the body get rid of excess cholesterol, which would otherwise form deposits on the artery walls.

On a general note, the more good cholesterol you have in your body, the less likely you are to end up with plaque build-up because of bad cholesterol. When plaques are formed, they can also lead to oxygen deprivation, which in turn causes a series of other health problems, such as kidney disease.

Dangers Of High Cholesterol

Why it is important to know your cholesterol numbers ...

If we have too much bad cholesterol, it gets into the bloodstream and begins to build up as plaque deposits in the arteries, narrowing them and increasing the risk of heart disease, including a stroke or heart attack.

The guidelines on measuring LDL and HDL in the USA changed in 2014. A level of 130 mg of LDL is considered high. However, today physicians also take into account a range of other factors including whether heart disease has developed and the presence of conditions such as type 2 diabetes.

Also Check: Does Shrimp Have High Cholesterol

Causes Of High Cholesterol

High cholesterol is a significant risk factor for coronary heart disease and a cause of heart attacks.

A build-up of cholesterol is part of the process that narrows arteries, called atherosclerosis. In atherosclerosis, plaques form and cause restriction of blood flow.

Reducing the intake of fat in the diet helps to manage cholesterol levels. In particular, it is helpful to limit foods that contain:

  • Cholesterol: This is present in animal foods, meat, and cheese.
  • Saturated fat: This occurs in some meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, deep-fried, and processed foods.
  • Trans fats: This occurs in some fried and processed foods.

Excess weight or obesity can also lead to higher blood LDL levels. Genetic factors can contribute to high cholesterol. People with the inherited condition familial hypercholesterolemia have very high LDL levels.

Other conditions that can lead to high cholesterol levels, include:

In adults, total cholesterol levels less than 200 milligrams per deciliter are considered healthy.

  • A reading between 200 and 239 mg/dL is borderline high.
  • A reading of 240 mg/dL and above is considered high.

LDL cholesterol levels should be less than 100 mg/dL.

  • 100129 mg/dL is acceptable for people with no health problems but may be a concern for anyone with heart disease or heart disease risk factors.
  • 130159 mg/dL is borderline high.
  • 160189 mg/dL is high.
  • 190 mg/dL or higher is considered very high.
  • eat a heart-healthy diet
  • achieve and maintain a healthy weight

What Else Can You Do To Lower Cholesterol

Sounds obvious, but ditching the fags, losing weight and increasing your activity levels to around 30 minutes of exercise for five days a week, are all factors shown to reduce non-HDL-cholesterol. “Weight loss doesn’t have to be extreme, a 10% reduction is effective, particularly if the weight is concentrated around the tummy,” notes Dr Brame. “Reducing alcohol intake is effective in helping weight loss and reducing high triglyceride levels too.”

If you’re found to be especially at risk of heart disease, vascular disease, high blood pressure or diabetes, a medication called a statin may be prescribed for you. It’s likely your doctor will request further blood tests to check your levels improve once you’re on it too.

Dr Aimée Brame, is Consultant Physician at London Bridge Hospital .

Follow Jennifer on and

Like this article? to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

You May Like: How Much Cholesterol In Tuna

Lowers The Chance Of Breast Cancer

Studies show that higher fibre intake lowers the risk of breast cancer for women in their adolescence and early childhood. Both the intake of soluble fibre and insoluble fibre is associated with lower breast cancer risks. So, its recommended for women to consume food containing high-fibre content like fruits, vegetables, and grains.

What Kind Of Test Measures Cholesterol

Why It is Important to Stay on Top of Your Cholesterol

Everyone over the age of 20 should get their cholesterol levels measured at least once every five years. Your healthcare provider will order a blood test that will indicate how much cholesterol is carried in your bloodstream. This test will give your cholesterol levels. Your provider might also order what is called a lipid panel or a lipid profile. The panel gives you the following numbers:

  • Total cholesterol.
  • Non-HDL cholesterol.
  • Ratio between cholesterol and HDL.

There are advanced tests that break down the size and shapes of LDL cholesterol levels, and also give the LDL particle number, but those are not normally ordered. Some test makers say that the more advanced tests are better at indicating who is at risk for heart disease, but most providers still feel that the usual tests are adequate.

Read Also: Does Tuna Have Good Or Bad Cholesterol

How To Lower Your Cholesterol And Why Its So Important

Attention: it’s not just an “old people” problem

If, like me , you thought cholesterol was

  • a) Something only those in their 50s and beyond needed to be concerned with, and
  • b) somehow improved by switching the type of butter you use

…then hopefully the below will clear things up. We grilled Dr Aimée Brame, Consultant Physician at London Bridge Hospital on all things cholesterol: whether or not young people need to be concerned about it, how to lower cholesterol, and why it particularly affects pregnant women.

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.

Don’t Miss: Does Tuna Help Lower Cholesterol

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.

How Is The Total Cholesterol Or Blood Cholesterol Test Done

Cholesterol: What is it and Why is it Important?

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.

Recommended Reading: How Much Cholesterol In Canned Tuna

Misconception: Diet And Physical Activity Dictate Your Cholesterol Level

Diet and physical activity do affect overall blood cholesterol levels, but so do other factors.

Being overweight or obese tends to increase bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol . Getting older also causes LDL cholesterol to rise. For some, heredity may play a role.

So, a heart-healthy diet and regular physical activity are important to everyone for maintaining cardiovascular health.

Understand the sources of cholesterol.

The Difference Between Good And Bad Cholesterol

If cholesterol is so necessary, why is it sometimes described as “bad” and at other times as “good?”

Your liver packages cholesterol into so-called lipoproteins, which are combinations of lipids and proteins. Lipoproteins operate like commuter buses that carry cholesterol, other lipids like triglycerides, fat-soluble vitamins, and other substances through the bloodstream to the cells that need them.

  • Low-density lipoproteins, sometimes called bad cholesterol, gets its bad reputation from the fact that high levels of it are associated with increasing your risk of heart disease. LDL contains more cholesterol than protein, making it lighter in weight. LDL travels through the bloodstream and carries cholesterol to cells that need it. When it becomes oxidized, LDL can promote inflammation and force lipids to accumulate on the walls of vessels in the heart and rest of the body, forming plaques. These plaques can thicken and may limit or completely block blood and nutrients to affected tissues or organs.
  • HDLor high-density lipoproteinsis also commonly referred to as “good cholesterol.” HDL is heavier than LDL because it contains more protein and less cholesterol. HDL gets its good reputation from the fact that it takes cholesterol from the cells and brings it to the liver. Having higher levels of HDL may also help lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Recommended Reading: How Much Cholesterol In Pork Chops

New Insights Into Cholesterol Functions: A Friend Or An Enemy

Cholesterol is a sterol synthesized by animal cells and is also a component of the diet, being present in food of animal origin. Its main function is to maintain the integrity and fluidity of cell membranes and to serve as a precursor for the synthesis of substances that are vital for the organism including steroid hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D. Although a high dietary cholesterol intake was considered as a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases , recent evidence suggests that it does not increase significantly low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in the circulation. Results, however, remain controversial, potentially due to the correlation with saturated fat intake. In view of these recent findings and the fact that cholesterol plays a vital role in major functions in the body, the special issue of Nutrients on Cholesterol and Health focused on the functions of cholesterol and the effects of dietary cholesterol in various metabolic processes.

A New Class Of Drugs Can Dramatically Lower Your Ldl Cholesterol

Cholesterol Levels Explained| Why It Is So Important To Have Your Levels Checked

PSCK9 inhibitors are introducing a new era in treating high cholesterol, especially the kind thats genetically inherited. Treatment with PSCK9 inhibitors can cut LDL levels by 50% or more. Although the drugs are very expensive now, manufacturers, pharmacists and doctors are working together to help make them available to more patients.

Recommended Reading: Are Egg Beaters Low In Cholesterol

Why Is Ldl Bad

LDL is known as the bad cholesterol because too much of it can lead to hardening of the arteries.

According to the American Heart Association, LDL leads to plaque accumulation on the walls of your arteries. When this plaque builds up, it can cause two separate, and equally bad, issues.

First, it can narrow the blood vessels, straining the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. Second, it can lead to blood clots, which can break loose and block the flow of blood, causing a heart attack or stroke.

When it comes to your cholesterol numbers, your LDL is the one you want to keep low ideally less than 100 milligrams per deciliter .

Treatment Options For High Cholesterol

The two best ways to lower or maintain your cholesterol levels include drug therapies as well as watching what you eat, staying active, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Your provider is the best person to work with to develop a course of treatment that will help you get the best results and lower your cholesterol.

Recommended Reading: Effects Of Low Good Cholesterol

Firstly What Is Cholesterol

Cholesterol is an essential type of fat that’s carried in the blood.

All cells in the body need cholesterol it’s an essential part of cell walls in our bodies and has important roles, including to produce some hormones, maintain healthy nerve cells and in the synthesis of vitamin D.

Your body needs a small amount of cholesterol to function, but an imbalance between different types of cholesterol in the blood increases the risk of heart disease, one of the leading chronic diseases in Australia today.

About ¾ of the cholesterol in your body is made in the liver and a small amount may come from the food you eat. Various factors affect blood cholesterol levels including your diet and lifestyle, body weight and genes.

Myth: I Dont Need Statins Or Other Medicines For My Cholesterol I Can Manage My Cholesterol With Diet And Exercise

Ldlcholesterollevels Why Is It Important To Maintain ...

Fact: Although many people can achieve good cholesterol levels by making healthy food choices and getting enough physical activity, some people may also need medicines called statins to lower their cholesterol levels. Guidelinesexternal icon also suggest that other medicines in addition to statins may be needed to help control cholesterol.2

People who may need statins or other medicines to manage cholesterol levels include the following:

  • People with familial hypercholesterolemia or people with very high levels of bad cholesterol. FH is a genetic condition that causes very high LDL cholesterol levels beginning at a young age. If left untreated, cholesterol levels will continue to get worse. This greatly raises the risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke at a young age.
  • People with cardiovascular disease . People with CVD may already have narrowed arteries because of too much plaque. Medicines that lower cholesterol may help reduce the risk for heart attack or stroke.
  • People with diabetes.Type 2 diabetes lowers HDL or good cholesterol levels and raises bad cholesterol levels. This combination raises your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Other groups of people may also need medicines to manage their cholesterol, including people who have a high risk for CVD. Always talk to your health care provider about the best ways to manage your cholesterol.

Also Check: Are Mussels High In Cholesterol

Plant Sterols Can Lower Cholesterol Levels

Plant sterols are found naturally in plant foods including sunflower and canola seeds, vegetable oils and in nuts, legumes, cereals, fruit and vegetables. Some margarine and milks have concentrated plant sterols added to them. Margarines enriched with plant sterolslower LDL cholesterol in most people if the correct amount is eaten .

Why Do Women Get High Cholesterol During Pregnancy

Cholesterol levels are elevated in pregnancy because it’s used to make new cells for the baby, as well as helping with the influx of preggy hormones. “Levels can rise somewhere between 25 and 50%, however it’s the good cholesterol which rises the most,” says Dr Brame, who also advises that levels generally return to normal around a month after birth. It’s rare for high cholesterol in pregnancy to require treatment. “In general, women have higher levels of HDL cholesterol than men, because their bodies contain more of the ‘female hormone’, oestrogen.” This changes when women reach the menopause: HDL levels fall, total cholesterol and non-HDL cholesterol levels start to rise, and the risk of cardiac disease also increases. Cheery stuff .

Don’t Miss: Is Crab High In Cholesterol


Most Popular