What is cholesterol?
Knowing the facts about cholesterol is the first step in learning how to lower it. Cholesterol is a type of fat found in your body cells and bloodstream. It is essential for life because your body uses it to make important substances such as hormones, digestive enzymes, vitamin D etc. The term “lipids” also refers to cholesterol and “hyperlipidemia” is the term used for high levels. There are actually different types of fat that all come under the general term cholesterol. Your “lipid profile” blood test will list different types of cholesterol, which is described in more detail below.
What are the different types of cholesterol?
1. LDL: or Low Density Lipoprotein is the so-called “bad” cholesterol. If your LDL levels are high, it will lead to plaque formation in your blood vessels.
2. VLDL: or Very Low Density Lipoprotein, is another “bad” cholesterol that can harm your arteries.
3. Triglycerides: is a type of cholesterol that is carried by VLDL. High levels of triglyceride can cause inflammation of the pancreas, called pancreatitis.
4. HDL: is the so-called “good” cholesterol that carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. Your liver then removes it from your body. As a result, high HDL levels can protect you.
What level of cholesterol is considered high?
This depends on a number of things such as your age, gender, whether you have a history of diabetes or a heart attack, whether you smoke etc. However, in general you can use the following approximate levels:
- Total Cholesterol: >195 mg/dL (5 mmol/L)
- LDL Cholesterol: >115 mg/dL (3 mmol/L)
- HDL Cholesterol: should be higher than 60 mg/dL (1.5 mmol/L)
What are the symptoms of high cholesterol?
One of the difficult things about managing high cholesterol is that it causes no symptoms at all. Therefore, the only way to know if you have high cholesterol or not is by doing a blood test.
What are the signs of high cholesterol?
Doctors can sometimes find out if a patient has high cholesterol by examining them. One of the signs of high cholesterol is “xanthelesma”, a type of skin condition that looks like yellowish areas of skin, usually near the eyes. Other signs include “tendon xanthomas”, which are nodules on the surface of tendons such as the Achilles tendon. “Eruptive xanthomas” are small projections on the surface of skin, usually linked with high triglyceride levels.
Why is a high level of cholesterol harmful?
The main problem with high cholesterol is that it leads to a higher risk of having an event like a heart attack or stroke. How does this happen? If you have high levels of cholesterol, it can combine with other components and form a sticky substance called plaque. Plaque can be deposited in the walls of your arteries all over your body. It can affect the arteries of the heart and brain. We call this build up of plaque atherosclerosis. Think of it as a hardening of the arteries. They become less elastic and as a result they can’t transport the same amount of blood. In addition, the lumen of the arteries start becoming narrower.
Sometimes the plaque breaks down and the fatty substance inside leaks out. This is called plaque rupture and it can block a blood vessel. This in turn can cause a heart attack or a stroke.
The good news is you can lower your cholesterol by following some simple lifestyle changes. Click here to learn more on this website.
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