Why Cholesterol Affects Women Differently
In general, women have higher levels of HDL cholesterol than men because the female sex hormone estrogen seems to boost this good cholesterol. But, like so much else, everything changes at menopause. At this point, many women experience a change in their cholesterol levels total and LDL cholesterol rise and HDL cholesterol falls. This is why women who had favorable cholesterol values during their childbearing years might end up with elevated cholesterol later in life. Of course, genetics and lifestyle factors can play big roles, too.
Managing Cholesterol Is A Lifelong Process
Mastrojohn knows his cholesterol management will be a lifelong process, but its one hes deeply invested in. He takes his medication regularly and has blood work done every six months to ensure his numbers remain in an acceptable range.
I know many people are wary of having to take medications daily, as I was, but some things are out of our control, and you just have to do what you have to do, he says. Im thankful that these medications exist to help prolong peoples lives.
Mastrojohn hopes others can learn from his experience and educate themselves on how to stay healthy. The issue with high cholesterol is that its not something you actually feel, and unfortunately, some people find out they have it after its too late, he says. It doesnt matter if youre thin, overweight, in shape, not in shape it can affect anyone.
Mastrojohn knew early on to watch his cholesterol numbers because of family history, and he encourages others to do the same. I cant stress that enough, especially if you know that you have a family history of high cholesterol: Visit your doctor regularly, get it checked, and manage it accordingly, he says. And move, move, move. Dont be sedentary! Im not doing all of this just for me but for my family as well.
Who Should Consider Meds
If you fall into any of these categories, statins are likely to provide a significant benefit , so talk with your doctor about them if:
You already have plaque in your arteries.
Your LDL target will be even lower than 130 it should be at least under 100 mg/dL, and ideally under 70 mg/dL.
You have diabetes.
Anyone with diabetes over the age of 40 should take a statin, since chronically high blood sugar greatly increases your risk of developing heart disease.
Your LDL is super high .
You’re a time bomb. Statins will likely drop your levels way down into a safer zone.
Your age, blood pressure, smoking history, and cholesterol numbers point to a high chance of trouble.
Even if you dont meet the above criteria, you may still have a high risk of developing a heart attack or stroke. Docs figure out how high using calculators that estimate your 10-year risk of having heart disease. If your ten-year risk is more than 7.5%, youd likely be safer with a statin.
Your arteries are filled with calcium.
If the calculator pegs your risk in a lower range, but youre still concerned , you can get a scan to further assess your risk. A CAT scan of your heart, for example, can quantify its calcium burden, or score, and very abnormal results indicate a more urgent need to lower your cholesterol.
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Who Needs To Get Checked
Everyone should get their cholesterol checked, starting at age 20 and then every 4 to 6 years after that if their risk remains low.
After age 40, your doctor may want to check your levels more often. Typically, people assigned male at birth who are ages 45 to 65, along with people assigned female at birth who are ages 55 to 65, should have their cholesterol checked every 1 to 2 years.
Everyones risk for high cholesterol goes up with age. This is because the older we get, the harder it becomes for our bodies to filter out cholesterol.
A family history of high cholesterol can also increase risk.
While its impossible to control aging and family history, there are some behaviors that increase the risk of developing high cholesterol that can be changed
Individuals living with obesity and type 2 diabetes are more at risk for an increase in bad cholesterol and a dip in good cholesterol.
Its important to work with your doctor, who can provide support and resources, to help you adhere to their recommendations on how to lower your risk. Recommendations may include losing excess weight and focusing on finding what works best for you in managing your diabetes.
Other behaviors that may put you at a higher risk include:
- smoking, which can damage blood vessels and may lower good cholesterol
- eating a diet high in saturated and trans fat, which includes foods like fatty meats and dairy-based desserts
- not getting enough physical movement throughout the week
- drinking an excess of alcohol
Stress And Cholesterol Link
There is compelling evidence that your level of stress can cause an increase in bad cholesterol indirectly. For example, one study found that stress is positively linked to having less healthy dietary habits, a higher body weight, and a less healthy diet, all of which are known risk factors for high cholesterol. This was found to be especially true in men.
Another study that focused on over 90,000 people found that those who self-reported being more stressed at work had a greater chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol. This may be because the body releases a hormone called cortisol in response to stress. High levels of cortisol from long-term stress may be the mechanism behind how stress can increase cholesterol. Adrenaline may also be released, and these hormones can trigger a fight or flight response to deal with the stress. This response will then trigger triglycerides, which can boost bad cholesterol.
Regardless of the physical reasons why stress can impact cholesterol, multiple studies show a positive correlation between high stress and high cholesterol. While there are other factors that can contribute to high cholesterol, it seems that stress can be one, too.
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How Is Familial Hypercholesterolemia Diagnosed
FH can be diagnosed through clinical and/or genetic tests. Cholesterol screening is recommended to begin between ages 9 and 11 and once more between ages 17 and 21 and should be continued through adulthood. If the following criteria is met, then a diagnosis of FH could be considered:
- LDL cholesterol levels equal to or greater than 190 mg/dL for adults 20 years or older
- LDL cholesterol levels equal to or greater than 160 mg/dL based for those younger than 20 years
- A patients family history of vascular-related diseases
- Physical examination for visible symptoms
- Current diagnoses of vascular-related diseases
Multi-gene panel testing that searches for variants in the LDLR, LDLRAP1, APOB, and PCSK9 genes can also be used to diagnose FH. However, a negative genetic test does not completely rule out FH if clinical signs clearly point toward the condition. Its possible that other genes and variants that have not yet been discovered could contribute to the disorder. Here at Yale we can perform whole exome sequencing that provides information on all mutations that affect a protein in the body. This allows identification of previously unknown genetic mutations.
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What Affects My Cholesterol Levels
A variety of things can affect cholesterol levels. These are some things you can do to lower your cholesterol levels:
- Diet. Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat make your blood cholesterol level rise. Saturated fat is the main problem, but cholesterol in foods also matters. Reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level. Foods that have high levels of saturated fats include some meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods.
- Weight. Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease. It also tends to increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. It also raises your HDL cholesterol level.
- Physical Activity. Not being physically active is a risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol levels. It also helps you lose weight. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days.
- Smoking.Cigarette smoking lowers your HDL cholesterol. HDL helps to remove bad cholesterol from your arteries. So a lower HDL can contribute to a higher level of bad cholesterol.
Things outside of your control that can also affect cholesterol levels include:
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Taking Time To Stay Active
If a person is not at a moderate weight or has obesity, they may have an increased risk of high LDL cholesterol. If a person is not very active and has a high body mass index , they may need to increase their activity levels.
Adults should aim to complete 150 minutes of physical activity a week. A weekly routine may include 30 minutes of exercise over 5 days. A person could try cardio, for example, such as brisk walking or running. Muscle-strengthening activities such as hill walking or resistance weight training may also help with maintaining moderate weight levels.
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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What Causes High Cholesterol
For anyone whos been diagnosed with high cholesterol or advised by a doctor to lower their numbers, the information can be overwhelming.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance in the blood that is used to build healthy cells, but when levels get too high due to poor diet and other lifestyle habits, existing medical conditions, genetics , or a combination of these factors the risk of heart disease increases. Thats because high cholesterol causes fatty deposits to develop in the blood vessels, and these deposits constrict blood flow to the arteries over time and may suddenly break off to form a clot, causing a heart attack or stroke.
Cholesterol is the sum total of the LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, calculated by a formula, explains Robert Greenfield, MD, a board-certified cardiologist, lipidologist, and internist at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. Its important to know each component of the total cholesterol, as just knowing the total cholesterol especially if its high doesnt tell you why its high, which is so important in planning a treatment strategy.
Factors Other Than Food Can Raise Cholesterol Levels
If you dont eat much of those foods above, its probably not food causing your high cholesterol levels.
There are many other factors that can affect cholesterol production drastically. To make things worse, most of them increase LDL the most.
Heres a list of the most common non-food causes of high cholesterol:
- Genetic factors Inherited conditions like familial hypercholesterolemia can lead to very high LDL levels.
- Obesity Excess fat can almost double the amount of cholesterol you produce.
- Diabetes Strongly associated with high LDL levels.
- Liver or kidney disease Certain diseases are intertwined with high cholesterol. Although in many cases the high cholesterol is the one affecting the disease.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome People with this syndrome often have low HDL cholesterol.
- Pregnancy Many hormone levels change, and that often leads to higher cholesterol production than usual. It also often causes pregnancy insomnia.
- Underactive thyroid gland Another issue linked to increased cholesterol.
- Drugs Certain drugs like steroids and progestins can increase LDL and lower HDL.
As you can see there are many factors other than diet that can affect cholesterol levels.
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What Are The Worst Foods For High Cholesterol
The following is a list of 15 of the worst foods to eat if you have high cholesterolHamburgers. Fried Chicken. French Fries. Cream Cheese. Ice Cream. Egg Yolks. Butter. Red Meat. Red meats like beef, lamb, and pork tend to contain more cholesterol and saturated fat than other meats.More itemsNov 14, 2017
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What Happens If You Have High Cholesterol
What does high cholesterol mean?
High cholesterol means there is too much cholesterol in your blood. This can clog up your arteries the large blood vessels that carry blood around your body. Over time, this can lead to serious problems.
How does cholesterol clog up your arteries?
Excess cholesterol can be laid down in the walls of your arteries. Fatty areas known as plaques can form, and these become harder with time, making the arteries stiffer and narrower. This process is called atherosclerosis.
When the arteries become narrower, its harder for blood to flow through them. This puts a strain on your heart because it has to work harder to pump blood around your body. Eventually, the heart can become weak and cant work as well as it should.
Blood clots can form over the fatty, hardened parts of the arteries. The blood clots can block the artery completely, cutting off the blood flow. Bits of the blood clots can break away and become lodged in an artery or vein in another part of the body, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.
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Take A Look At Your Lifestyle
You can make lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol numbers.
Your body naturally produces all the LDL cholesterol it needs. An unhealthy lifestyle makes your body produce more LDL cholesterol than it needs. This is the cause of high LDL cholesterol for most people.
Behaviors that can negatively affect your cholesterol levels include:
- Unhealthy diet
Treatment And Medication Options For High Cholesterol
Although having high cholesterol numbers can contribute to the long-term risk of heart attack and stroke, you can lower your cholesterol through changes in your lifestyle habits, including adopting a heart-healthy diet, increasing your physical activity level, and quitting smoking. These long-term lifestyle changes can also prevent your cholesterol levels from changing in the first place.
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What Does The Term Total Cholesterol Mean
The term total cholesterol refers to the total amount of the different kinds of cholesterol in your blood. One kind of cholesterol is the LDL cholesterol. Another kind is the HDL cholesterol. LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. LDL is the bad cholesterol. HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. HDL is the good cholesterol.
What Are The Different Types Of Cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol:
- Bad cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol: It transports cholesterol particles throughout the body. LDL cholesterol builds up in the walls of the arteries, making them hard and narrow.
- Good cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol: It picks up excess cholesterol from the blood vessels and takes it back to your liver.
Too much of the bad kind, or not enough of the good kind, increases the risk of plaque buildup in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. A plaque is found on the inner side of the large blood vessels. It is made of cholesterol, calcium, and blood products. It makes the lumen of these blood vessels narrow.
- Adults who have total cholesterol levels less than 200 mg/dL are considered healthy.
- If total cholesterol is between 200 and 239 mg/dL, it is borderline high.
- If total cholesterol is 240 mg/dL and above, it is considered high and harmful.
Bad cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein :
- LDL cholesterol levels should be less than 100 mg/dL.
- 100-129 mg/dL is acceptable for people with no health problems but may be a concern for anyone with heart diseases or heart disease risk factors.
- 130-159 mg/dL is borderline high.
- 160 mg/dL and above is considered high and harmful.
Good cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein :
- HDL levels should be kept higher. The optimal reading for HDL levels is 60 mg/dL or higher.
- If HDL is less than 40 mg/dL, it can be a major risk factor for heart diseases.
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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.