Overview of cholesterol
Cholesterol is a common reason for diseases however, it is necessary for the proper functioning of the body. The body utilizes cholesterol to make several hormones and synthesis of vitamin D and supporting the digestion process. The liver generates sufficient amounts of cholesterol which can perform all these tasks.
The source of cholesterol is not only from the liver but also from the food we eat. Cholesterol is present in the foods like meat, poultry, and dairy products. The excessive consumption of such foods leads to extremely high levels of cholesterol levels in the body.
There are mainly two types of cholesterol:
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) which are also known as the bad cholesterol.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL) which are also known as good cholesterol.
HDL versus LDL cholesterol
These two main types of cholesterol HDL and LDL are mainly made up of fat and proteins. Cholesterol moves through the entire body while being inside lipoproteins.
HDL is termed as a good cholesterol because it transports cholesterol to the liver to facilitate its removal from the body. HDL helps in getting rid of your body’s excess cholesterol which otherwise usually ends up blocking the arteries.
Also, in general terms, HDL number is better if higher. If it is < 1.0 mmol/L for men and < 1.3 mmol/L for women it is referred as abnormal numbers.
LDL is termed as bad cholesterol because it reaches in the arteries and gets accumulated in the walls leading to blockage. The cholesterol keeps on piling up in the arteries and eventually leads to plaque buildup known as atherosclerosis. It increases the risk of blood clot formation in the arteries.
If a blood clot breaks up then it blocks an artery of the heart or brain, causing a heart attack or stroke respectively. In addition to this blockage even causes blood flow reduction towards the major organs which might cause lack of oxygen in the organs which might turn up into a fatal kidney or peripheral artery disease.
Also, in general terms, LDL number is better if lower. If it is > 3.5 mmol/L it is referred as abnormal numbers.
Knowing your cholesterol levels better
Abnormal cholesterol numbers might not get a reflection via any symptoms and this might make you unaware of the condition you might be suffering from. To avoid any more suffering and get a Cholesterol Profile Test done to know if you have any abnormal cholesterol levels or not.
In a cholesterol profile test you will get to know the following:
Total blood cholesterol:
It includes the values of HDL, LDL, and 20 % of the total triglycerides.
The higher the values, the better it will be for you. It must be higher than 55 mg/dL for the females and higher than 45 mg/dL for the males.
The lower the values, the better it will be. It must not be greater than 130 mg/dL if you are healthy without any heart or blood vessel disease and diabetes. Also, for the ones suffering any heart disease or cholesterol problems its values must not be greater than 100 mg/dL.
This number must be lower than 150 mg/dL. These are the most common type of fat in the body. If your triglycerides along with LDL are high or your HDL is low then chances of developing atherosclerosis increases for you.
What causes high cholesterol?
Various lifestyle factors like obesity, lack of regular exercise, eating foods full of fats like processed foods, red meat, full-fat dairy products, saturated and trans fats etc.
The habit of smoking causes lower HDL levels in smokers. So plan on quitting smoking in case you want to increase your HDL levels.
It is not yet clear from the several studies that if stress has any direct connection with high cholesterol levels or not. However, unmanaged stress might lead to certain behaviors like increased smoking, overeating of fats, and inactivity which can potentially increase LDL and total cholesterol levels.
Hereditary is another cause of high cholesterol issues. Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) occurs because of the genetic mutation which leaves an impact on a person’s liver and its ability to get rid of extra LDL cholesterol. Such condition increases the risk of heart attack irrespective of the age.
How are high levels of cholesterol treated?
Few lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, taking cholesterol-friendly diet including monounsaturated healthy fats, and doing regular exercise help in controlling excess cholesterol levels. Also, stress management can give added benefit in controlling the levels.
Sometimes lifestyle changes are not sufficient enough to get the extremely high cholesterol levels in control. In such cases, the physician might prescribe medications like statins, Niacin, omega-3 fatty acids, fibrates, bile-acid-binding medications, and cholesterol absorption inhibitors to help in lowering the levels.
For the people suffering from heart and blood disorders, it is essential to keep a control over the cholesterol levels and keep monitoring it via tests at regular intervals.
LDL and HDL both can be a matter of concern if the limits are not within the recommended ranges. Usually, variations in its levels are warning signals for a hidden disorder which needs diagnosis and treatment. Where high HDL cholesterol levels are required on the other hand low levels of LDL are a must for a good health. Any issues with the cholesterol levels must be taken seriously. Early diagnosis can only lead to early treatment and recovery.
Risk of heart disease and stroke minimizes if the cholesterol issues are kept in control. Lifestyle changes are sometimes required to reach the desired healthy goals of cholesterol levels.