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.
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 Factors Affect Cholesterol Levels
A variety of factors can affect your cholesterol levels. They include:
- Diet: Saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol in the food you eat increase cholesterol levels. Try to reduce the amount of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol in your diet. This will help lower your blood cholesterol level. Saturated and trans fat have the most impact on blood cholesterol.
- Weight: In addition to being a risk factor for heart disease, being overweight can also increase your triglycerides. Losing weight may help lower your triglyceride levels and raise your HDL.
- Exercise: Regular exercise can lower total cholesterol levels. Exercise has the most effect on lowering triglycerides and raising HDL. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most days of the week.
- Age and sex: As we get older,cholesterol levels rise. Before menopause, women tend to have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After menopause, however, womens LDL levels tend to rise and HDL can drop.
- Heredity: Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High blood cholesterol can run in families.
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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.
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What Affects Cholesterol Levels
Many things can cause high cholesterol, including:
- The foods you eat. Eating too much saturated fat and trans fat can raise your cholesterol.
- Being overweight. This may lower HDL cholesterol.
- Being inactive. Not exercising may lower HDL cholesterol.
- Age. Cholesterol starts to rise after age 20.
- Family history. If family members have or had high cholesterol, you may also have it.
What Does A Lipid Panel Measure
As stated, when you have a lipid panel, there are several notable measurements. The results of your lipid panel are an important component in allowing your doctor to assess your cardiovascular health and risk. Other factors that are taken into account when determining your risk include your blood pressure, weight, exercise levels, and the presence of medical conditions such as diabetes.
Each component of the results provides different pieces of information. Important measures are:
When you have a cholesterol test, doctors are most concerned with total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglyceride levels.
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Desirable Blood Lipid Levels:
Less than 200 mg/dL = Desirable200-239 mg/dL = Borderline high240 mg/dL and above = High
Less than 100 mg/dL = Optimal100-129 mg/dL = Near/above optimal190 mg/dL and above = Very high
Below 40 mg/dL = Suboptimal 60 mg/dL and above = Optimal
Less than 150 mg/dL = Normal150-199 mg/dL = Borderline high500 mg/dL and above = Very high
Are There Different Kinds Of Lipids
Cholesterol is the main lipid. It is made up of different parts such as:
- LDL cholesterol, or bad cholesterol, is the main lipid that causes damaging buildup and blockage in your arteries.
- HDL cholesterol is actually a good type of cholesterol that helps to prevent cholesterol from building up in your arteries.
- Triglyceride is another lipid that may increase your risk for heart disease.
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What Are Lipid Rafts
Lipid rafts are possible areas of the cell membrane that contain high concentrations of cholesterol and glycosphingolipids. The existence of lipid rafts has not been conclusively established, though many researchers suspect such rafts do indeed exist and may play a role in membrane fluidity, cell-to-cell communication, and infection by viruses.
Lipid, any of a diverse group of organic compounds including fats, oils, hormones, and certain components of membranes that are grouped together because they do not interact appreciably with water. One type of lipid, the triglycerides, is sequestered as fat in adipose cells, which serve as the energy-storage depot for organisms and also provide thermal insulation. Some lipids such as steroid hormones serve as chemical messengers between cells, tissues, and organs, and others communicate signals between biochemical systems within a single cell. The membranes of cells and organelles are microscopically thin structures formed from two layers of phospholipid molecules. Membranes function to separate individual cells from their environments and to compartmentalize the cell interior into structures that carry out special functions. So important is this compartmentalizing function that membranes, and the lipids that form them, must have been essential to the origin of life itself.
Functions Of Lipids In The Body: Insulating And Protecting
Did you know that up to 30 percent of body weight is comprised of fat tissue? Some of this is made up of visceral fat or adipose tissue surrounding delicate organs. Vital organs such as the heart, kidneys, and liver are protected by visceral fat. The composition of the brain is outstandingly 60 percent fat, demonstrating the major structural role that fat serves within the body. You may be most familiar with subcutaneous fat, or fat underneath the skin. This blanket layer of tissue insulates the body from extreme temperatures and helps keep the internal climate under control. It pads our hands and buttocks and prevents friction, as these areas frequently come in contact with hard surfaces. It also gives the body the extra padding required when engaging in physically demanding activities such as ice- or roller skating, horseback riding, or snowboarding.
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What Causes High Levels Of Fat In The Blood
Most people have high levels of fat in their blood because they eat too much high-fat food. Some people have high fat levels because they have an inherited disorder. High lipid levels may also be caused by medical conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, alcoholism, kidney disease, liver disease and stress. In some people, certain medicines, such as birth control pills, steroids and blood pressure medicines, can cause high lipid levels.
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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Functions Of Lipids In The Body: Aiding Digestion And Increasing Bioavailability
The dietary fats in the foods we eat break down in our digestive systems and begin the transport of precious micronutrients. By carrying fat-soluble nutrients through the digestive process, intestinal absorption is improved. This improved absorption is also known as increased bioavailability. Fat-soluble nutrients are especially important for good health and exhibit a variety of functions. Vitamins A, D, E, and Kthe fat-soluble vitaminsare mainly found in foods containing fat. Some fat-soluble vitamins are also found in naturally fat-free foods such as green leafy vegetables, carrots, and broccoli. These vitamins are best absorbed when combined with foods containing fat. Fats also increase the bioavailability of compounds known as phytochemicals, which are plant constituents such as lycopene and beta-carotene . Phytochemicals are believed to promote health and well-being. As a result, eating tomatoes with olive oil or salad dressing will facilitate lycopene absorption. Other essential nutrients, such as essential fatty acids, are constituents of the fats themselves and serve as building blocks of a cell.
Figure 4.2.3: Food Sources of Fat-Soluble Vitamins
Note that removing the lipid elements from food also takes away the foods fat-soluble vitamin content. When products such as grain and dairy are processed, these essential nutrients are lost. Manufacturers replace these nutrients through a process called enrichment.
Tools for Change
How Is High Cholesterol Diagnosed
There are usually no signs or symptoms that you have high cholesterol. There is a blood test to measure your cholesterol level. 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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What Can Raise My Risk Of High Cholesterol
A variety of things can raise your risk for high cholesterol:
- Age. Your cholesterol levels tend to rise as you get older. Even though it is less common, younger people, including children and teens, can also have high cholesterol.
- Heredity. High blood cholesterol can run in families.
- Weight. Being overweight or having obesity raises your cholesterol level.
- Race. Certain races may have an increased risk of high cholesterol. For example, African Americans typically have higher HDL and LDL cholesterol levels than whites.
What Are Some Ways To Cut Down On Fat In My Diet
Buy lean cuts of meat. Cut away all visible fat before cooking it.
Remove the skin from chicken before cooking it.
Don’t eat fried foods or high-fat sauces.
Instead of frying meat, broil it or grill it.
Don’t eat egg yolks. You can eat egg whites or egg substitutes.
Use low-fat dairy products, such as skim milk or 1% milk, low-fat frozen yogurt, low-fat ice cream and low-fat cheeses.
Don’t use whole milk, full-fat ice cream, sour cream, cheese or milk chocolate.
Put more fiber in your diet. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber. Eat three to five servings of vegetables a day and two to four servings of fruits.
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Where Does Cholesterol Come From
The liver is responsible for managing the levels of LDL in the body. It manufactures and secretes LDL into the bloodstream. There are receptors on liver cells that can âmonitorâ and try to adjust the LDL levels. However, if there are fewer liver cells or if they do not function effectively, the LDL level may rise.
Diet and genetics both play a factor in a personâs cholesterol levels. There may be a genetic predisposition for familial hypercholesterolemia where the number of liver receptor cells is low and LDL levels rise causing the potential for atherosclerotic heart disease at a younger age.
In the diet, cholesterol comes from saturated fats that are found in meats, eggs, and dairy products. Excess intake can cause LDL levels in the blood to rise. Some vegetable oils made from coconut, palm, and cocoa are also high in saturated fats.
The goal is to have patients modify lifestyle and diet to maintain cholesterol levels within the normal range. It is important to remember that HDL may protect a patient from heart disease and it may be a treatment goal to raise a too low level of HDL.
Role Of Lipids In Food: Smell And Taste
Fat contains dissolved compounds that contribute to mouth-watering aromas and flavors and increase palatability of food. Fat also adds texture to food. Baked foods are supple and moist. Frying foods locks in flavor and lessens cooking time. How long does it take you to recall the smell of your favorite food cooking? What would a meal be without that savory aroma to delight your senses and heighten your preparedness for eating a meal?
Fat plays another valuable role in nutrition. Fat contributes to satiety, or the sensation of fullness. When fatty foods are swallowed the body responds by enabling the processes controlling digestion to retard the movement of food along the digestive tract, thus promoting an overall sense of fullness. Oftentimes before the feeling of fullness arrives, people overindulge in fat-rich foods, finding the delectable taste irresistible. Indeed, the very things that make fat-rich foods attractive also make them a hindrance to maintaining a healthful diet.
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Major Risk Factors For Cardiovascular Disease And Risk Reduction:
Some factors cannot be altered, however you can make lifestyle changes to help lower your risk.
Smoking tobacco greatly increases the risk for heart disease. See Tobacco Cessation Help.
Hypertension: A blood pressure greater than 140/90 mmHg is considered elevated, increases cardiovascular risk and needs to be controlled. See Hypertension.
Diabetesincreases the risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association offers a Family Tree to learn about risk and other tools to manage diabetes.
Elevated LDL and triglycerides are risk factors for coronary heart disease see Desirable Blood Lipid Levels.
Lack of physical activity: Regular exercise can help decrease your total cholesterol level and may increase the amount of HDL in our body. People who exercise regularly lower their risk for heart disease, even if their lipid levels do not change. See Exercise.
Excess body weight: With each extra pound, the body must increase blood volume and the number of capillaries to supply the fatty tissue. This means that the heart must work harder. Losing weight can lessen this strain on the heart. Maintaining a healthy weight permanently requires a change in eating habits, exercise patterns and attitudes. See Weight Reduction.
Diet: A diet rich in cholesterol and saturated fat increases risk of plaque build-up in the inner lining of the blood vessels. Eat a healthy diet by following these recommendations:
Checking Your Blood Cholesterol Level
A cholesterol screening is an overall look at the fats in your blood. Screenings help identify your risk for heart disease. It is important to have what is called a full lipid profile to show the actual levels of each type of fat in your blood: LDL, HDL, triglycerides, and others. Talk with your healthcare provider about when to have this test.
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Why Does Cholesterol Matter
Your cholesterol levels can help your doctor find out your risk for having a heart attack or stroke. But it’s not just about your cholesterol. Your doctor uses your cholesterol levels plus other things to calculate your risk. These include:
- Your blood pressure.
- Whether or not you have diabetes.
- Your age, sex, and race.
- Whether or not you smoke.
The Facts About Cholesterol
Can You Burn Off Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of lipid, just as fats are. However, unlike fat, cholesterol can’t be exercised off, sweated out or burned for energy. It is found only in animal products, including meat, chicken, fish, eggs, organ meats and high-fat dairy products.
Is Cholesterol Good or Bad?
Just as homemade oil-and-vinegar dressing separates into a watery pool with a fat-slick topping, so also would fats and cholesterol if they were dumped directly into the blood. To solve this dilemma, the body transports fat and cholesterol by coating them with a water-soluble “bubble” of protein. This protein-fat bubble is called a lipoprotein.
- Low-density lipoproteins carry cholesterol to the tissues. This is “bad” cholesterol, since high LDL levels are linked to increased risk for heart disease.
- High-density lipoproteins carry excess cholesterol back to the liver, which processes and excretes the cholesterol. HDLs are “good” cholesterol The more HDL you have, the lower your risk for developing heart disease.
- HDLs and LDLs are found only in your blood, not in food.
Test Your Cholesterol
Your risk for heart disease can be assessed with a blood-cholesterol test. In this test, your total-cholesterol reading should approximate the sum of your LDL, HDL and other lipoproteins. If you have 3.5 mg of total cholesterol, or less, for every 1 mg of HDLs, then your cholesterol ratio is ideal. According to guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Program:
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