"Good and Bad"

Cholesterol is a lipid (fat-soluble naturally-occurring molecule, such as fats, oils, sterols, etc.) found in the cell membranes of all tissues, and is transported in the blood plasma of all animals.

It comes from two sources: your body and food. Your liver and other cells in your body make about 75% and the other 25% comes from the food you eat.

It plays a central role in many biochemical processes, such as the composition of cell membranes and the synthesis of steroid hormones (steroids which act as hormones).

Insoluble in blood, it is transported in the circulatory system bound to one of the many varieties of lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is known as "bad cholesterol" and high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, known as "good cholesterol".

These two types of lipids, along with triglycerides and Lp(a) make up your total cholesterol count, which can be determined through a blood test.


LDL: Low-density lipoproteinWhen too much LDL circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. Together with other substances, it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis and can result in a heart attack or stroke.

HDL: High-density lipoprotein About one-fourth to one-third of lipoproteins is carried by HDL which seems to protect against heart attack. Medical experts think that HDL tends to travel away from arteries and back to the liver where it is passed from the body.

TriglyceridesTriglyceride is a form of fat made in the body. Elevated levels can be due to overweight/obesity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and a diet very high in carbohydrates (60% of total calories or more). Many people with heart disease and/or diabetes also have high triglyceride levels.

Lp(a)Lp(a) is a generic variation of LDL. A high level of Lp(a) is a significant risk factor for the premature development of fatty deposits in arteries. Lp(a) isn't fully understood, but it may interact with substances found in artery walls and contribute to the buildup of fatty deposits.


Simple lifestyle changes as eating a sensible diet low in saturated fats, getting moderate exercise, and losing excess weight are all important ways you can lower your high cholesterol level.

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish, flax seed oil, Omega-6 fatty acids, one or more grams of niacin per day and some statins reduce triglyceride levels.

Multiple human trials utilizing HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, known as statins, have repeatedly confirmed that changing lipoprotein transport patterns from unhealthy to healthier patterns significantly lowers cardiovascular disease event rates.

And studies have shown that people with or without a history of cardiovascular disease may benefit from statins irrespective of their LDL level.


When should you have your levels checked?

Men aged 35 and older and women aged 45 and older should have their level checked yearly. Depending on what your level is and on what other factors for heart disease you have, you may need to have it checked more often.

Risk factors for heart disease:

  • Had a previous heart attack
  • Male over the age of 45
  • Woman over the age of 55
  • A woman who is going through menopause or has completed menopause
  • Having an immediate family member (parent or sibling) who had a heart disease
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Having high blood pressure or diabetes
  • Being overweight or obese
  • inactive lifestyle

If high blood cholesterol runs in your family, lifestyle modifications such as staying away from eating saturated and trans fat and exercising regularly may not be enough to help lower your LDL. Everyone is different, so work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that's best for you.

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