What Causes High Cholesterol
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Cholesterol is both good and bad. At normal levels, it is an essential substance for the body. However, if concentrations in the blood get too high, it becomes a silent danger that puts people at risk of heart attack.
Cholesterol is present in every cell of the body and has important natural functions when it comes to digesting foods, producing hormones, and generating vitamin D. The body produces it, but people also consume it in food. It is waxy and fat-like in appearance.
There are two types of cholesterol:
- low-density lipoproteins , or bad cholesterol
- high-density lipoproteins , or good cholesterol
In this article, we will explain the role of cholesterol. We will also discuss the causes of high cholesterol, and its symptoms, treatment, and prevention.
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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
If Cholesterol Is Necessary Why Do We Have To Worry About How Much We Have
Having enough cholesterol to meet your needs is important. Having too much cholesterol can cause problems. If your cholesterol levels are high, the condition is called hypercholesterolemia. If your cholesterol levels are low, the condition is called hypocholesterolemia. It is not common to have cholesterol levels that are too low, but it can happen.
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Good And Bad Cholesterol
There’s only one kind of cholesterol but it is carried around the body by different carriers called lipoproteins, notably:
- Low density lipoprotein
- High density lipoprotein
In simple terms, cholesterol carried by LDLs is considered bad because when theres too much of it circulating in your blood it contributes to plaque build-up that clogs arteries and makes them less flexible . If you have high blood cholesterol your goal will be to reduce LDL levels in your blood.
On the other hand, cholesterol carried by HDLs is considered good because it carries cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is broken down and passed from the body. Any lifestyle changes or treatment for high blood cholesterol will aim to ensure HDL levels are increased or maintained at healthy levels.
When blood cholesterol tests are done, the level of triglycerides in your blood is also measured. Triglycerides are the most common type of fat that exists in food and in the body. When calories ingested in a meal are not used immediately by the body, they are converted to triglycerides and are transported to the fat cells to be stored. It is thought that elevated triglyceride levels may increase the risk of developing heart disease, particularly when associated with high LDL-cholesterol levels.
There Are Two Main Types Of Cholesterol
The two main lipoproteins responsible for transporting cholesterol are low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein .
LDL cholesterol is whats known as bad cholesterol. Too much LDL cholesterol leads to fatty buildups that clog arteries atherosclerosis. Narrows arteries make it difficult for blood to travel through the body, and it makes your heart work harder to pump blood. Excess LDL cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke, peripheral artery disease.
In general, you want lower levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
HDL cholesterol is commonly referred to as good cholesterol. Research shows a correlation between higher HDL levels and a lower risk for heart disease. High-density lipoproteins help carry LDL cholesterol through the blood and back to the liver. The liver then breaks down LDL cholesterol, allowing the body to remove it as waste.
In general, you want higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
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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.
Eat Whole Grains Instead Of Processed Carbs
Include foods rich in fibre into your daily diet, like wholegrain oats or psyllium husk. These can help you feel fuller for longer, so they will curb cravings and prevent sugar spikes that lead to weight gain. Highly processed carbohydrates can be very harmful if they make up a large percentage of your diet. Carbs give you energy, but too much has been shown to increase cholesterol levels in the liver, making more by mistake
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Treatment Options To Maintain Normal Cholesterol Levels
Your doctor may recommend a treatment plan for high cholesterol that includes lifestyle modifications and medications.
This will also vary based on factors like medications you may be taking, your age, gender, and general health.
The following are some medications are most common prescription medications for high cholesterol:
Statins: These medications help to lower LDL cholesterol by slowing the production of cholesterol by your liver.
Bile Acid Sequestrants: Bile acid sequestrants helps in digestion. These resins can also help to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood by binding to bile acids and removing them.
Thus, forcing the body to break down LDL cholesterol to create bile acids instead.
Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors: These inhibitors can block the absorption of cholesterol from the diet, sometimes in conjunction with statins.
Bempedoic Acid: It helps to stop an enzyme in your liver, ATP citrate lyase, from making cholesterol.
Your doctor can combine statins for the increased benefit for those with familial hypercholesterolemia.
PCSK9 Inhibitors: Your doctor will also prescribe this medication will familial hypercholesterolemia.
Moreover, they will inject these drugs to help your liver absorb and remove LDL cholesterol from the blood.
Medications can also be used to treat contributing factors to cholesterol like triglycerides.
Furthermore, they may also be used in addition to some of the medications above.
Good Bad And Total Cholesterol: What Does It All Mean
If youve discussed cholesterol with your primary care physician, you know there are different types of cholesterol that affect your body in different ways. However, many people havent been educated about cholesterol. Is there really good cholesterol and bad cholesterol? What is a healthy cholesterol level, and how do you manage cholesterol? Heres some information to help you understand what cholesterol is all about.
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Regulation Of Cholesterol Synthesis
Biosynthesis of cholesterol is directly regulated by the cholesterol levels present, though the homeostatic mechanisms involved are only partly understood. A higher intake from food leads to a net decrease in endogenous production, whereas lower intake from food has the opposite effect. The main regulatory mechanism is the sensing of intracellular cholesterol in the endoplasmic reticulum by the proteinSREBP . In the presence of cholesterol, SREBP is bound to two other proteins: SCAP and INSIG-1. When cholesterol levels fall, INSIG-1 dissociates from the SREBP-SCAP complex, which allows the complex to migrate to the Golgi apparatus. Here SREBP is cleaved by S1P and S2P , two enzymes that are activated by SCAP when cholesterol levels are low.
Cholesterol synthesis can also be turned off when cholesterol levels are high. HMG-CoA reductase contains both a cytosolic domain and a membrane domain. The membrane domain senses signals for its degradation. Increasing concentrations of cholesterol cause a change in this domain’s oligomerization state, which makes it more susceptible to destruction by the proteasome. This enzyme’s activity can also be reduced by phosphorylation by an AMP-activated protein kinase. Because this kinase is activated by AMP, which is produced when ATP is hydrolyzed, it follows that cholesterol synthesis is halted when ATP levels are low.
Normal Cholesterol Levels In Adults
You should get your cholesterol levels checked every 5 years after your age is more than 20 years, according to the American Heart Association.
Your doctor will perform the screening test i.e. lipid profile.
Cholesterol levels consist of LDLs, HDLs, and triglycerides.
LDL is bad cholesterol as it blocks our blood vessels and increases your risk for heart disease.
On the other hand, HDL is good cholesterol as it helps to protect you from heart disease.
Thus, the higher your HDL, the better.
Total cholesterol also includes a triglyceride count and these are other types of fat that can build up in the body in the body.
Moreover, doctors consider them building blocks of cholesterol.
High levels of triglycerides and low levels of HDL raise your risk for heart disease.
This is because as you age, cholesterol tends to climb. Furthermore, men are often at a higher risk than women for higher cholesterol.
However, as a woman experiences menopause, their risk for high cholesterol goes up.
For those with high cholesterol and other heart risks, like diabetes, doctors often recommend frequent testing.
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The American Heart Association Recommends
All adults age 20 or older should have their cholesterol checked every four to six years. If certain factors put you at high risk, or if you already have heart disease, your doctor may ask you to check it more often. Work with your doctor to determine your risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke and create a plan to reduce your risk.
What To Know About Triglycerides
In addition to cholesterol, you might hear about your triglycerides, another kind of fat found in the bloodstream. Women should pay particular attention to this. A high level of triglycerides seems to predict an even greater risk for heart disease in women compared with men, says Michos.
When you take in more calories than you need, your body converts the extra calories into triglycerides, which are then stored in fat cells. Triglycerides are used by the body for energy, but people with excess triglycerides have higher risk of medical problems, including cardiovascular disease. Drinking a lot of alcohol and eating foods containing simple carbohydrates , saturated fats and trans fats contributes to high triglycerides. High levels may also be caused by health conditions such as diabetes, an underactive thyroid, obesity, polycystic ovary syndrome or kidney disease.
Triglycerides also circulate in the bloodstream on particles that may contribute to plaque formation. Many people with high triglycerides have other risk factors for atherosclerosis, including high LDL levels or low HDL levels, or abnormal blood sugar levels. Genetic studies have also shown some association between triglycerides and cardiovascular disease.
High Cholesterol: Prevention, Treatment and Research
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How Cholesterol Levels Affect Your Health
Your body needs cholesterol to function normally, but it becomes a problem when there is too much bad cholesterol in your blood. Cholesterol can join with other substances, such as calcium or fat, and create thick deposits inside your arteries.
Plaque can lead to atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of thick deposits in the blood vessels. Over time, the buildup of plaque can make the arteries narrower and clogged. This makes it harder for blood to move through the arteries.
Too much cholesterol in your body and plaques may eventually cause:
- Chest pain
- Clot blocking the flow of blood to the heart
- Clot blocking the flow of blood to the head
- Narrow and blocked coronary arteries that move blood to your heart
- Narrow and blocked carotid arteries that move blood to your head
- Narrow and blocked arteries that move blood to your limbs
- Sudden stopping of the heart
Plasma Transport And Regulation Of Absorption
As an isolated molecule, cholesterol is only minimally soluble in water, or hydrophilic. Because of this, it dissolves in blood at exceedingly small concentrations. To be transported effectively, cholesterol is instead packaged within lipoproteins, complex discoidal particles with exterior amphiphilic proteins and lipids, whose outward-facing surfaces are water-soluble and inward-facing surfaces are lipid-soluble. This allows it to travel through the blood via emulsification. Unbound cholesterol, being amphipathic, is transported in the monolayer surface of the lipoprotein particle along with phospholipids and proteins. Cholesterol esters bound to fatty acid, on the other hand, are transported within the fatty hydrophilic core of the lipoprotein, along with triglyceride.
There are several types of lipoproteins in the blood. In order of increasing density, they are chylomicrons, very-low-density lipoprotein , intermediate-density lipoprotein , low-density lipoprotein , and high-density lipoprotein . Lower protein/lipid ratios make for less dense lipoproteins. Cholesterol within different lipoproteins is identical, although some is carried as its native “free” alcohol form , while others as fatty acyl esters, known also as cholesterol esters, within the particles.
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How Can I Lower My Cholesterol
There are two main ways to lower your cholesterol:
- Heart-healthy lifestyle changes, which include:
- Heart-healthy eating. A heart-healthy eating plan limits the amount of saturated and trans fats that you eat. Examples include the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet and the DASH Eating Plan.
- Weight Management. If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your LDL cholesterol.
- Physical Activity. Everyone should get regular physical activity .
- Managing stress. Research has shown that chronic stress can sometimes raise your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL cholesterol.
- Quitting smoking.Quitting smoking can raise your HDL cholesterol. Since HDL helps to remove LDL cholesterol from your arteries, having more HDL can help to lower your LDL cholesterol.
- Drug Treatment. If lifestyle changes alone do not lower your cholesterol enough, you may also need to take medicines. There are several types of cholesterol medicines available, including statins. The medicines work in different ways and can have different side effects. Talk to your health care provider about which one is right for you. While you are taking medicines to lower your cholesterol, you should continue with the lifestyle changes.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
What Are Normal Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in the cells in your body. Cholesterol is found in some foods, like meat and dairy products. Your liver is responsible for making cholesterol. Your body needs it to function properly. There are two types of cholesterol high-density lipoprotein , or good cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein , or bad cholesterol. Too much LDL cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.
The total cholesterol in your body is the amount of cholesterol in your blood. It consists of both LDL and HDL cholesterol. The good cholesterol, HDL, helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. The bad cholesterol, LDL, is the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in your arteries. Too much LDL can put you at risk for a stroke, heart attack, or other heart problems.
Cholesterol levels vary by age, weight, and gender. As you age, your body will produce more cholesterol. As an adult, you should check your cholesterol levels every four to six years to make sure youre in a healthy range.
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Further Information And Support
For assessment and treatment of high cholesterol levels see a doctor. For ideas about how to lower high cholesterol levels a doctor or dietitian can assist.
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.
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What Are Good Levels For The Hdl Cholesterol
- HDL cholesterol levels greater than 60 milligrams per deciliter are high. That’s good.
- HDL cholesterol levels less than 40 mg/dL are low. That’s not so good.
In general, people with high HDL are at lower risk for heart disease. People with low HDL are at higher risk.
What Is Good Cholesterol
When people talk about good cholesterol, theyre talking about high-density lipoproteins the kind of cholesterol that works positively in your bloodstream.
HDL, low-density lipoproteins , triglycerides, and Lp cholesterol make up your total cholesterol count, the magic number your doctor might be telling you to lower. In that count, HDL cholesterol is the kind you desire in greater numbers.
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