Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in the body that travels through the blood while connected to a protein. About 75% of cholesterol is made in the liver and other cells. The remaining 25% is obtained from food products, specifically those from animals. The cholesterol-protein unit, or lipoprotein, can be helpful or hurtful, depending on how much protein there is in relation to fat. An individual with high levels of the hurtful lipoproteins is said to have high cholesterol, or hypercholesterolemia, and is at a greater risk for heart disease and stroke.
Types of cholesterol
High density lipoproteins (HDL), also known as “good” cholesterol, are produced in the body and help prevents bad cholesterol from clogging arteries. Higher levels of HDL signal lower risk of heart disease. Low density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol, is produced in the body and can lead to clogged arteries that can in turn induce heart disease. Some individuals are genetically predisposed to high levels of LDL and those people, as well as others, may increase LDL levels by eating saturated fat, trans fats and dietary cholesterol. Very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) is similar to LDL and contains mostly fat and little protein.
To learn more about “Good” and “Bad” Cholesterol, click here
Effects of cholesterol
Cholesterol and heart disease: A certain amount of cholesterol allows the body to produce hormones, vitamin D and bile acids, which help fat digestion. Once the body has a sufficient amount of cholesterol to function properly, additional build up can be detrimental and lead to heart disease.
Atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries. This condition can occur when too much cholesterol builds up in the body’s arteries, forming a plaque and narrowing the space available for blood to pass. Atherosclerosis can lead to heart disease.
Angina: Angina is chest pain that occurs when blood that does not carry enough oxygen reaches the heart.
Risk factors For High Cholesterol
Gender and Age: Pre-menopausal, women generally have lower levels of LDL than men of the same age. However, post-menopause, women have increased level of LDL. People, in general, see an increase in cholesterol levels with age.
Weight: While being overweight can already contribute to heart disease, it can also raise cholesterol levels.
Genetic Predisposition: Some people are genetically predisposed to produce higher LDL levels in the body.
Poor diet & lack of exercise: Diets that are high in cholesterol and saturated fat can contribute to high cholesterol levels. Lack of exercise can contribute to high levels of LDL cholesterol.
Diabetes: When proper care and attention is not given to diabetes, it can increase cholesterol levels.
Since high blood cholesterol may not have symptoms, people should take measures to monitor levels of LDL. Doctors recommend that cholesterol levels remain below 200.