Cholesterol

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Cholesterol bad levels

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood, which helps your body to build new cells, insulate nerves and produce hormones. However, too much cholesterol in your body is a major risk factor for heart disease.

According to the World Health Organization , cardiovascular diseases are the world’s biggest killers, claiming more than 17 million lives each year worldwide. So, what can you do if you or a loved one has high cholesterol? Healthy dietary choices and regular exercise are among the most effective weapons in the fight against high cholesterol.

In this section, you will find information on the causes of high cholesterol, how it is diagnosed, as well as preventative tips to reduce your cholesterol levels. You will also learn what your cholesterol levels should be in our Guide to Cholesterol Numbers and the best treatments to bring them in line. There are many companies providing diet plans to achieve your optimal weight levels. You can also visit a gym to stay fit or even try hypnotherapy to quit smoking and / or loose weight. 

Symptoms

High cholesterol itself does not cause any symptoms and can only be detected by a blood test. For this reason, many people are unaware that their cholesterol levels are too high. It is very important to find out what your cholesterol numbers are because if they are too high, it puts you at risk of developing heart diseases than can be fatal.

Causes

Mayo Clinic describes cholesterol as a waxy substance that's found in the fats (lipids) in your blood. Cholesterol is needed by your body to build new cells, insulate nerves and produce hormones. Normally, the liver makes all the cholesterol the body needs, yet cholesterol also enters your body from dietary sources such as animal-based foods like milk, eggs, and meat. You could not live without some cholesterol in your body.

However, when there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it builds up in the wall of your arteries. Over time, this build-up can restrict the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart, causing chest pain and increasing your risk of a heart attack. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by a blockage, the result is a heart attack.

While high cholesterol can be inherited, more often it is the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices. This means that both prevention and treatment are possible with changes to your diet and level of physical activity. In some cases, cholesterol-lowering medications can also be helpful.

What factors affect cholesterol levels?

Bad Cholesterol LevelsSome factors that affect cholesterol levels are unchangeable. These include:

  • Age and Gender: With age, cholesterol levels increase. Before menopause, women tend to have lower cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After menopause, the cholesterol level gap between women and men appears to close.
  • Genetics: High blood cholesterol can run in families meaning that genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes.

There are also a number of lifestyle factors that can be changed, which affect your cholesterol levels. These include:

  • Diet: Reducing the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level. Saturated fat is the main culprit, but cholesterol in foods also matters.
  • Weight: Being overweight can increase your cholesterol and is also a risk factor for heart disease. Losing weight helps to lower your total cholesterol levels.
  • Exercise: Being physically inactive is another risk factor for high cholesterol and heart disease. Regular exercise can lower your bad cholesterol and increase your good cholesterol levels.

Diagnosis

A blood test, called a lipoprotein profile, is used to check a person’s cholesterol levels and to determine whether they have high cholesterol. This test will typically give details of your total cholesterol, your low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol), your high-density lipoprotein (HDL or good cholesterol) and your triglycerides.

To learn how to interpret the results of your test, see Guide to Cholesterol Numbers.

Guide to Good and Bad Cholesterol Levels

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute , everyone age 20 and over should have their cholesterol measured at least once every 5 years. The best way is to have a blood test called lipoprotein profile to determine your cholesterol numbers. This blood test is performed after a 9 – 12 hour fast and gives information about your:

Total cholesterol

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol) – the main source of cholesterol build-up and blockage in the arteries
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL or good cholesterol) – helps to prevent cholesterol from building up and blocking the arteries
  • Triglycerides – another form of fat in your blood.

The tables below show what your cholesterol numbers mean. Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood.

Total Cholesterol Level Category
Less than 200 mg/dL Desirable
200-239 mg/dL Borderline High
240 mg/dL and above High

 

LDL Cholesterol Level Category
Less than 100 mg/dL Optimal
100-129 mg/dL  Near Optimal
130-159 mg/dL  Borderline High
160-189 mg/dL High
190 mg/dL and above Very High

 

 Triglyceride Level Category
149 mg/dL and below Desirable
150-199 mg/dL Borderline High
240 mg/dL and above High


HDL Cholesterol protects against heart disease, so higher numbers are healthier for HDL.

Cholesterol Lowering Naturally

Cholesterol Lowering NatrualThe main goal of cholesterol-lowering treatment is to reduce your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) level enough to trim down your risk of developing heart disease. Depending on your current cholesterol numbers, treatment may simply mean making therapeutic lifestyle changes, such as a going on a low-cholesterol diet and starting an exercise program. Drug treatments and alternative medicine may also be used to lower your cholesterol.

  • Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet are the first line of defense against high cholesterol. For those with a low to moderate risk of developing heart disease, a low-cholesterol diet and daily exercise program are your key protectors. Remember that there isn't a one-size-fits-all recommendation for diet or cholesterol consumption. That means you may have to try several different approaches to find one that work for you. If, in the following months, your cholesterol level does not decrease, your doctor may order medication to be taken along with the diet and exercise.
  • Medication: For those with a moderate to high risk of developing heart disease, you may need to start drug treatments at the same time as making the lifestyle changes outlined above. The specific choice or combination of medications depends on various factors, including your individual risk factors, age and overall health. The most common choices include:
    • Statins: These are the most commonly prescribed medications for lowering cholesterol. Statins block a substance your liver needs to produce cholesterol, in turn, causing your liver to remove cholesterol from the blood. They are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, and reduce the risk of future heart attacks and death in people who already have heart disease.  Side effects can include intestinal problems, liver damage, and in a few people, muscle tenderness or weakness.
    • Bile-acid resins: These drugs work inside the intestine, where they bind to bile and prevent it from being reabsorbed into the circulatory system. This process works to lower cholesterol indirectly, prompting your liver to use excess cholesterol to make more bile acids, which reduces the level of cholesterol in your blood. The most common side effects are constipation, gas, and upset stomach.
    • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors: Your small intestine absorbs the cholesterol from your diet and releases it into your bloodstream. The drug ezetimibe (Zetia) helps reduce blood cholesterol by inhibiting the absorption of dietary cholesterol. Zetia can be used in combination with any of the statin drugs. Although Zetia may reduce your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, research studies have not found that Zetia reduces your risk of heart disease.
    • Combination drugs: Some people with high cholesterol achieve the best results with combination drugs – pills that contain more than one medication to treat cholesterol problems. Vytorin, which combines a statin drug with a cholesterol absorption inhibitor, is an example of an effective combination drug.
  • Alternative medicine: Some natural products and supplements may be helpful in reducing cholesterol levels. Examples include barley, garlic, oat bran and blond psyllium. Make sure your doctor is aware of any supplements you’re taking, in case they interact with prescription medicines.

Prevention

You can prevent having high cholesterol by making heart-healthy lifestyle choices. These include:

  • Maintain a healthy diet: What you eat has a direct impact on your cholesterol levels. Eat a low-fat, low-salt diet that includes many fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Reduce your intake of trans fats and simple carbohydrates.
  • Be physically active: In general, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. However, it’s best to speak with your doctor about an exercise plan that’s right for you.
  • Manage your weight: Excess weight contributes to high cholesterol. If you are overweight, losing just 5 to 10 pounds can help lower your total cholesterol levels.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking reduces HDL (good cholesterol). It also damages your arteries, which puts you at greater risk for plaque that can clog your arteries.
  • Limit alcohol: Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Mayo Clinic recommends no more than 1 drink a day.

There are many companies providing diet plans to achieve your optimal weight levels. You can also visit a gym to stay fit or even try hypnotherapy to quit smoking and / or loose weight. 

HDL Cholesterol Level Category
60 mg/dL or above Desirable
40-59 mg/dL  Average
39 mg/dL and Less  Very Low
 

 

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