Important: Lower Cholesterol Information Everyone Should know

High cholesterol, also known as hypercholesterolemia, has increasingly been affecting people for many, many years.  Abnormal cholesterol levels can show up as high LDL cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol. Low density lipoproteins (LDL) is also called “bad” cholesterol.  LDL can cause buildup of plaque on the walls of arteries.  High density lipoproteins (HDL), is also called “good” cholesterol.  It is the good cholesterol that helps the body to get rid of bad cholesterol in the blood; the higher the level of HDL cholesterol, the better.  Other types of cholesterol include VLDL and Triglycerides.  VLDL (very low density lipoproteins) is similar to LDL cholesterol in that it contains mostly fat and not much protein. Triglycerides are another type of fat that is carried in the blood by very low density lipoproteins. Excess calories, alcohol, or sugar in the body are converted into triglycerides in the liver and stored in fat cells throughout the body.

There are a few major health risks to having high cholesterol.  High cholesterol can lead to heart disease and stroke.  When too much cholesterol is present in the blood, plaque (a thick, hard deposit) may form in the body’s arteries narrowing the space for blood to flow to the heart.  Over time, this buildup causes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) which is what leads to heart disease.  When not enough oxygen-carrying blood reaches the heart due to the amount of plaque in the artier chest pain called angina can be the result.  If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by total blockage of a coronary artery, the result is a heart attack.  This is usually due to a sudden closure from a blood clot forming on top of a previous narrowing.  The more LDL there is in the blood, the greater the risk of heart disease.  If your levels of HDL are too low, you are also increasing your risk of heart disease.

Several things can lead to high cholesterol.  One is having an unhealthy diet.  A low-cholesterol diet can help improve cholesterol levels. If the low-cholesterol diet does not work to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe medications.  Sometimes high cholesterol runs in families.  Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes naturally. Your LDL cholesterol is affected due to how fast LDL is made and removed from the blood.  One specific form of inherited high cholesterol that affects 1 in 500 people is familial hypercholesterolemia, which often leads to early heart disease.  Gender and age also determine if you are at risk for having high cholesterol levels.  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, a women’s LDL levels tend to rise until about 60 to 65 years of age.  After the age of about 50, women often have higher total cholesterol levels than men of the same age.

Controlling cholesterol levels should not only be thought about when there is a problem.  By thinking about the amount of cholesterol that you eat on a daily basis, you can put yourself onto a road that leads to a healthier cholesterol level in the future.


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