Effects Of High Cholesterol Levels
The liver is the main processing centre for cholesterol and dietary fat. When we eat animal fats, the liver transports the fat, together with cholesterol in the form of lipoproteins, into our bloodstream.
Too much cholesterol circulating within LDL in our bloodstream leads to fatty deposits developing in the arteries. This causes the vessels to narrow and they can eventually become blocked. This can lead to heart disease and stroke.
Whats Cholesterol And Why Is It Important
What is cholesterol, and when is it good or bad? What are the cholesterol recommendations for people with diabetes, and how can you keep up healthy cholesterol levels?
You may have had your cholesterol levels measured by a healthcare professional at some point in your life. Or at any moment while watching TV, an ad for a cereal that can lower your cholesterol pops up on your screen. But what is cholesterol? Is all cholesterol bad for you, and how do you keep your cholesterol levels in a healthy range? We want to answer your questions about cholesterol: what it is, the difference between good and bad cholesterol, and how to maintain healthy cholesterol levels if you have diabetes.
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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Why Is Cholesterol Needed By The Body
With all of the bad publicity cholesterol gets, people are often surprised to learn that its actually necessary for our existence.
Whats also surprising is that our bodies produce cholesterol naturally. But cholesterol isnt all good, nor is it all bad its a complex topic and one worth knowing more about.
When Should You Contact Your Healthcare Provider About Your Cholesterol Levels
In truth, your healthcare provider will probably talk to you about your numbers first. As always, contact your provider if you have any new or worsening pain or other uncomfortable feelings. Make sure you know what medications you take and what they are expected to do. Call the provider if you have a reaction to the medicine.
Before you go to the office, and after you have had a cholesterol test, it helps to have a list of questions prepared about your test results and any proposed treatment.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
When considering cholesterol numbers, its important to remember that you really have the ability to make those numbers go in your favor. What you choose to eat, how much you are able to move and how you deal with lifes ups and downs are things that you can influence.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/31/2020.
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Cholesterol Levels In Men & Women
Heart disease is the number-one killer of both men and women in the United States. More men have heart disease than women, but it’s important for everyone to keep their heart healthy. The healthy cholesterol ranges are the same for men and women , and the National Institutes of Health recommends that everyone age 20 and older get their cholesterol checked every five years.
However, most doctors use guidelines set by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force , a panel of health experts that publishes screening recommendations. Based on the most recent clinical evidence, the USPSTF recommends that all men get their cholesterol checked starting at age 35, but if they have an increased risk of heart disease to begin checking earlier. The USPSTF recommends women get their cholesterol measured only if they have an increased heart disease risk based on other factors.
What Health Problems Can High Cholesterol Cause
If you have large deposits of plaque in your arteries, an area of plaque can rupture . This can cause a blood clot to form on the surface of the plaque. If the clot becomes large enough, it can mostly or completely block blood flow in a coronary artery.
Plaque also can build up in other arteries in your body, including the arteries that bring oxygen-rich blood to your brain and limbs. This can lead to problems such as carotid artery disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease.
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How To Lower Ldl Cholesterol
Lifestyle and diet changes are the main ways to prevent or lower high LDL. A trial of eating a low-fat diet, regular aerobic activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and smaller waist circumference is an appropriate first step. It is best to set a timeline to achieve your goals with your doctor. In some cases, if those lifestyle changes are not enough, your physician may suggest a cholesterol lowering medication, such as a statin. If you are considering over-the-counter herbal or ayurvedic medications for cholesterol, please discuss those with your physician first as well.
Rarely, very high LDL is genetic and passed down in families. This is called familial hypercholesterolemia and is caused by a genetic mutation that decreases the livers ability to clear excess cholesterol. This condition can lead to very high LDL levels, and heart attack or stroke at a young age in multiple generations. Those individuals may require special medical treatment for prevention and treatment of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
Remember, knowledge is the first step. If you dont know your cholesterol levels, get tested. That will give you and your physician a starting point for lifestyle changes and medications if needed. In the meantime, adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle, and do it with friends and family no matter their ages. Theres no time like the present to prevent heart disease.
What Is A Healthy Blood Cholesterol Level
For people who have plaque in their arteries or who have other factors that put them at risk for cardiovascular disease, doctors recommend an ideal LDL level well below 70 mg/dl. For those without risk factors who have an LDL level at or above 190 mg/dl, the recommendation is to get this level down to below 100 mg/dl. People age 40 to 75 who are living with diabetes and whose LDL is at 70 or above may need medication.
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Cholesterol Makes You Think
You need cholesterol for healthy brain function. The human brain averages about 2% of body weight, but contains 25% of its cholesterol. Research in 2001 revealed that cholesterol plays a vital role in the forming of synapses. A synapse is a connection or communication point between brain neurons. All of cognition including thinking, remembering and learning depend upon the function of synapses. If synapses are malformed or performing poorly, poor mental function follows. The study found that neurons with little or no cholesterol constructed few and weak synapses. When adequate cholesterol was reintroduced, the neurons again produced healthy synapses. According to scientist Christ Masterjohn reporting on the study, when the neurons were treated with a concentrated solution of cholesterol, synapse formation increased by 12 times!
Thus, sufficient cholesterol must be present in the brain in order for synapses to be formed and functional. Statins, which are cholesterol lowering drugs, were shown to significantly reduce cholesterol, as promised, and also diminish synapse formation, not part of the promise. Perhaps this is why scientists have lately suspected that statins and low-fat/low-cholesterol diets may be linked to cognitive decline and even Alzheimers Disease.
Medication May Be Needed
For some people, diet and lifestyle changes are not enough. High blood cholesterol levels often have a genetic component. Some people inherit altered genes that cause high cholesterol and this cannot usually be changed sufficiently by lifestyle or diet.
If you are at risk of coronary heart disease and your LDL cholesterol level doesnt drop after scrupulous attention to diet, your doctor may recommend medications to force your blood LDL levels down. Cell cholesterol levels, however, remain normal, so lowering blood cholesterol has no effect on most cell metabolic processes.
Some people get muscle aches from statins, which are the most commonly used medication to lower blood cholesterol. However, diet and exercise will still be important, even if you are taking medication. Your doctor may also refer you to a specialist who treats cardiovascular disease.
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Can Bad Cholesterol Levels Be Too Low Can Good Cholesterol Levels Be Too High
It isnt often that people have bad cholesterol that is too low or good cholesterol that is too high. There are studies being done that suggest that extremes of any kind are not healthy for everyone.
However, there is data from clinical trials to support that there is no evidence of harm when LDLs remain < 40mg/dl on statin therapy.
In some cases, genetic conditions can cause you to have very low cholesterol levels. In other cases, nutritional problems, some cancers, hypothyroidism and certain infections can also cause low cholesterol levels. In any of these types of situations, the underlying issues need to be addressed.
In terms of having too much of a good thing, researchers are studying the effects of too much HDL, the good cholesterol. No conclusions have been reached, but there have been studies into the possible relationship between high HDL and cancer, and a greater risk of heart attack among the high risk. Excessively high HDL may be dysfunctional HDL and not protective.
Getting A Cholesterol Test
A blood sample is taken that will be used to determine the amount of bad cholesterol , good cholesterol and other fatty substances in your blood.
You may be asked not to eat for 10-12 hours before the cholesterol test, usually including when you’re asleep at night. This ensures that all food is completely digested and won’t affect the outcome of the test.
Your GP or practice nurse can carry out the cholesterol test and will take a blood sample, either using a needle and a syringe or by pricking your finger.
A newer type of test that measures non-high-density lipoprotein is now sometimes used because it’s thought to be a more accurate way of estimating cardiovascular disease risk than LDL.
Non-HDL cholesterol is total cholesterol minus HDL cholesterol. It’s also not necessary to fast before the test, so it is more convenient.
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What’s Cholesterol Doing In There
Although cholesterol tends to get a bad rap, it also performs several important functions in the body:
- It plays a role in forming and maintaining cell membranes and structures. Cholesterol can insert between fat molecules making up the cell, making the membrane more fluid. Cells also need cholesterol to help them adjust to changes in temperature.
- Cholesterol is essential for making a number of critical hormones, including the stress hormone cortisol. Cholesterol is also used to make the sex hormones testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen.
- The liver also uses cholesterol to make bile, a fluid that plays a vital role in the processing and digestion of fats.
- Cholesterol is used by nerve cells for insulation.
- Your body also needs cholesterol to make vitamin D. In the presence of sunlight, cholesterol is converted into vitamin D.
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.
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Heres Why Diet Isnt The Only Possible Reason For High Cholesterol
Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on Feb 6, 2019. Written by Caitlin Boyd. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
âWhy is my cholesterol high?â If you find yourself asking that, you arenât alone. High cholesterol, a well-known risk factor for heart disease and stroke, affects about 1 in every 3 American adults. Thatâs arguably a pretty large proportion of adults who have high cholesterol â and it raises the question: why is high blood cholesterol so common?
Dietary habits, as many people know, are often responsible for high levels of cholesterol: eat a lot of foods high in saturated fat â cheeseburgers, for instance â and your blood cholesterol level might swing upwards.
While a diet high in saturated and trans fat can increase your total cholesterol level and cause high LDL and triglyceride numbers, this isnât always the whole picture when it comes to cholesterol levels: high blood cholesterol can make an unwelcome appearance even if youâre very careful about eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Hereâs why: there are other potential drivers of high cholesterol, such as a lack of exercise and oneâs genetics.
So read on to take a closer look at both of these non-dietary reasons for high cholesterol if youâre wondering âWhy is my cholesterol high when I eat healthy foods?â
You Dont Need To Avoid Eggs And Seafood
Some foods are high in cholesterol but are fine to eat in moderation, as long as your overall diet is low in saturated fats. For example:
- Egg yolks a single egg yolk contains 200250 mg of cholesterol, which is almost the uppermost recommended daily intake . However, reducing egg intake is probably not important for healthy people with normal blood cholesterol levels.
- Seafood prawns and seafood contain some cholesterol, but they are low in saturated fat and also contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Seafood is a healthy food and should not be avoided just because it contains cholesterol. However, avoid fried and battered seafood.
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Breast Cancer And High Cholesterol Link
Although all cells in the body require cholesterol to function, it is possible to develop high amounts of LDL cholesterolknown as the bad cholesterolwhich can increase the risk of a heart-related event. Cholesterol is also required to make vitamin D, compounds that aid in digestion, and hormones.
Senior author of the study Dr. Rahul Potluri explained, We previously found an association between having high cholesterol and developing breast cancer, so we designed this study to follow up patients longitudinally and address the relationship more robustly.
Data was pulled for women over the age of 40 who were not diagnosed with high cholesterol or breast cancer at baseline. The researchers also included 16,043 women who were diagnosed with high cholesterol and an age-matched group of the same number of women without high cholesterol for comparison.
After a 14-year follow-up period, the researchers found lower incidences of breast cancer among the women with high cholesterol. Furthermore, women with a diagnosis of high cholesterol at baseline had a reduced risk of death compared to those without.
Dr. Potluri concluded, If a diagnosis of high cholesterol leads to lower breast cancer rates this must either relate to something inherent in the condition or affected patients, or more likely, to treatment with widely used cholesterol-lowering interventions such as statins.
Myth: Eating Foods With A Lot Of Cholesterol Will Not Make My Cholesterol Levels Go Up
Fact: It can be complicated. We know that foods with a lot of cholesterol usually also have a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fats can make your cholesterol numbers higher, so its best to choose foods that are lower in saturated fats. Foods made from animals, including red meat, butter, and cheese, have a lot of saturated fats.
Instead, aim to eat foods with plenty of fiber, such as oatmeal and beans, and healthy unsaturated fats, such as avocados, olive oil, and nuts. Learn more about healthy diets and nutrition at CDCs nutrition, physical activity, and obesity website.
Talk with your health care provider about ways to manage your cholesterol. Learn more about medicines to lower cholesterol.
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Who Should 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
- are over the age of 40 people over 40 should have their estimate of CVD risk reviewed regularly
- have a family history of early cardiovascular disease for example, if your father or brother developed heart disease or had a heart attack or stroke before the age of 55, or if your mother or sister had these conditions before the age of 65
- have a close family member who has a cholesterol-related condition, such as familial hypercholesterolaemia
- are overweight or obese
- have high blood pressure or diabetes
- have another medical condition, such as kidney disease, an underactive thyroid, or an inflamed pancreas these conditions can cause increased levels of cholesterol or triglycerides
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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