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Cholesterol

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in every cell of the body. Although your body creates all of the cholesterol your body needs, you can also get cholesterol from the foods you eat. Too much cholesterol in your body can build up and ultimately clog your arteries. The result is a hardening of the arteries known as atherosclerosis. Because arteries are designed to carry blood away from the heart, if they become hardened and clogged, it can result in serious problems such as a heart attack or stroke.

Understanding the Types of Cholesterol
There are different kinds of cholesterol and each type serves varying purposes. These include the following:
  • LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) – This is considered “bad” cholesterol. If you have high cholesterol, this is the kind your doctor will tell you that you need to lower because it can clog your arteries.
  • HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) – Believe it or not there is “good” cholesterol, and this is called HDL. HDL assists in clearing fat from your blood. A higher level of HDL can prevent heart attacks.
  • Triglycerides – This is the most common type of fat found in the blood and is a significant source of energy for your body. High levels of Triglycerides coupled with high LDL is a combination that can result in heart attacks.
Causes of High Cholesterol
There are many causes of high cholesterol, however there is one primary culprit – the food you eat. Eating too much saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can raise your cholesterol levels. Be aware of the foods you eat that may contain high levels of saturated or trans fats. These foods include whole milk, butter and cheese, just to name a few. Other causes of high cholesterol include:
  • Weight
  • Physical Activity/Exercise
  • Age & Sex
Symptoms of High Cholesterol
There are unfortunately no visible signs or symptoms when it comes to high cholesterol, and so it is important to have your cholesterol levels checked regularly. Your cholesterol is checked through a blood test called a lipoprotein panel. Before taking the test, you will be required to fast for anywhere between 8-12 hours. This test will reveal information such as your total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and your triglycerides. Below are a few tables that will help you understand what is normal and what is high.

 
Total Cholesterol Level Total Cholesterol Category
Less than 200 mg/dL Desirable
200–239 mg/dL Borderline high
240 mg/dL and higher High
 
LDL Cholesterol Level LDL Cholesterol Category
Less than 100 mg/dL Optimal
100–129 mg/dL Near optimal/above optimal
130–159 mg/dL Borderline high
160–189 mg/dL High
190 mg/dL and higher Very high
 
HDL Cholesterol Level HDL Cholesterol Category
Less than 40 mg/dL A major risk factor for heart disease
40–59 mg/dL The higher, the better
60 mg/dL and higher Protective against heart disease


Treatment for High Cholesterol
The goal of treating high cholesterol is to lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. A person with high cholesterol can be treated with medicines and through lifestyle changes that include better diet and exercise habits. Eating a healthy diet consists of foods low in cholesterol including fish, fruits, vegetables and beans, just to name a few. A balanced diet coupled with regular exercise will help you lose weight which can then help lower blood pressure and lower your cholesterol.


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