Cholesterol and What it Does
Cholesterol is a substance found in lipids, or fats, in the bloodstream, as well as in all of the bodys cells. This pliable waxy matter is used by the body to help form bile acids, cell membranes, certain hormones and vitamin D. Because lipids or fats do not dissolve in the blood, they must be moved from one part of the body to the next by lipoproteins. The two types of lipoproteins we normally hear about are high density lipoproteins (HDL), or good cholesterol, and low density lipoproteins (LDL), which are considered bad cholesterol.
Cholesterols Role in Cardiac Health
When too much bad LDL cholesterol enters the bloodstream, cardiovascular issues begin to appear. It is the responsibility of HDL to keep LDL levels in check by constantly moving LDL fat cells back to the liver where they are then excreted from the body. In order to police the bloodstream in this manner, HDL levels must be adequate. HDL levels lower than 40 mg/dL are unable to do the job. Lower levels of HDL also act in a negative manner by increasing the risk of heart attack. When LDL cells build up in the blood, they eventually begin to slow down and stick to the artery walls not only of the heart but also the arteries that feed the brain. This thick buildup is called plaque. Plaque buildup or atherosclerosis is commonly called hardening of the arteries. Hardening of the arteries is the beginning of coronary disease.
Ideally, HDL and LDL cholesterol levels should be equal. When cholesterol levels become imbalanced, the end result is high cholesterol. When high blood cholesterol levels increase, the risk of heart attack or stroke increases exponentially. The good news is that high blood cholesterol or bad cholesterol levels can be controlled by lifestyle and diet. The bad news is that despite this fact, not enough people are taking charge of their own health. Currently, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
Family History of High Blood Cholesterol Levels
About 75 percent of blood cholesterol is created by the liver and other cells. The other 25 percent comes from animal products that we eat. Unfortunately, sometimes the body creates more blood cholesterol than it needs and that, coupled with a diet of meat and fats it doesnt take long before we are on overload. Unhealthy blood cholesterol levels also can run in families. To avoid potential cardiovascular complications educate yourself and your family. Learn the facts and make it a point to know your family health history. In general, women are at higher risk of developing high cholesterol levels than men, and children born into families that have a history of high cholesterol levels can begin to show signs of plague buildup early in life. This means children in families who have a history of high cholesterol should have their cholesterol monitored from an early age. Whether there is a family history of high blood cholesterol or not, adults over the age of 20 should consider having their cholesterol checked at least once every five years. The test consists of a 12-hour fast followed by a blood test. Total cholesterol levels between 200 and 239 are considered borderline high. Anything over 240 is considered high. Cholesterol levels can be reduced by choosing healthier foods, becoming more active and maintaining a healthy weight. In some instances, regardless of a healthy diet and active status medication is required.