Cholesterol is something to think of. High cholesterol levels can lead to dangerous consequences in the body. It can be a confusing topic. Some say it is related to the diet, while others say diet has little influence.
Making sense of the numbers
Here, we will try to help you make sense of the numbers that your doctor is giving you.
There is good cholesterol and there is bad cholesterol, like just about everything else. Ideally, we want to increase the good cholesterol and lower the bad. It is often easier said than done since most of us are having so much trouble.
Cholesterol is a naturally occurring compound in the body. It is manufactured by the liver. But more cholesterol is needed and that comes from the foods that we eat. In the body, cholesterol is responsible for helping to create some hormones and for maintaining the integrity of cellular membranes. It is needed, but not always in the form that we introduce in our body from food.
Here are the three types of numbers that figure into your total cholesterol number.
LDL – this stands for “low density lipoprotein.” This form of cholesterol is termed the “bad” type. It is a sticky form that mostly comes from food. Because it is sticky it attaches to blood vessel walls, narrowing the opening through which blood has to pass. This leads to an increase in blood pressure. Numbers: <= 100 is optimal, 100-129 is near optimal, 130-159 is borderline high, 160-189 is high.
HDL – this stands for “high density lipoprotein.” This is the “good” form of cholesterol. It protects the heart against heart disease by keeping the vessel walls clean, preventing LDL plaque from sticking. When it can’t clog up the vessels, there is less chance of developing high blood pressure, vascular disease and stroke. Numbers: < 40 or 50 is low, > 70 is optimal.
Triglycerides – these are not technically a type of cholesterol. Actually they are a type of fat that exists in our food and thus enters our bodies when we eat it. They contribute to the level of unhealthy fats in the body and help the LDL. Their presence has been linked to coronary artery disease. They work with LDL cholesterol to increase the incidence of embolisms that lead to strokes and heart attacks. Therefore it is important to keep an eye on them. Numbers: < 150 is normal level, 150-199 is borderline high, 200-499 is high.
All three numbers figure into your total cholesterol number. Doctors recommend that the total number be no more than 200 for all three with the HDL being high and the other two being as low as possible.
What are your cholesterol numbers? Now you know what each stands for and why it is important to keep them in check.
Can High Cholesterol Be Inherited?
Heredity plays a role in many conditions that can occur in the body. What about high cholesterol? We already know that there is a correlation between the kinds of food we eat and the presence of high cholesterol, but what about your genes?
High cholesterol refers to a high combined cholesterol number. Your cholesterol number is made up of three numbers: LDL, HDL and triglyceride. LDL is the “bad” cholesterol number. This sticky form of cholesterol comes from fatty foods. It adheres to the vessel walls, narrowing the passageway for blood and increasing the workload of the heart to move that blood. This is the basis of high blood pressure.
HDL stands for “good” cholesterol. It is produced by food but most of it originates in the liver. Its job is to clean the vessels. It is not sticky so it doesn’t adhere to the walls, but removes LDL cholesterol that is there and helps it not to be able to stick again.
Triglyceride is a form of fat that comes from the food we eat and is stored in the body. It can also clump and stick to vessel walls, leading to potential heart problems and possibly a stroke.
While cholesterol problems can be caused by food and weight (obesity), there is also a hereditary component. This condition is called dyslipidemia. In simplest terms, it means that there is an overabundance of fat (lipids) in the blood. The condition is also referred to as hypercholesterolemia.
People with this disorder have, by nature, high amounts of lipids in the bloodstream. This occurs without the intervention of food. The lipids that are in high concentration are the LDL and the triglycerides, which you don’t want. The HDL is not high enough to combat the problems caused by the other two.
There are ways that this condition can be managed and ways that it can be made worse. Let’s talk about the latter first. With a family history of high cholesterol, it is important to avoid the following conditions: obesity, poor diet, drinking alcohol and a sedentary lifestyle. All of these things can increase your levels of poor lipids in the blood and put you that much more at risk for heart disease.
On the other hand, you can manage your predisposition to high cholesterol with a few changes to your lifestyle. The most important is to look at your diet. Reduce the amount of saturated fats and increase your intake of healthy and lean protein and grains. Increasing exercise levels can manage blood sugar to stop diabetes from being a problem.
Let your doctor know about your condition. They can be sure that they don’t prescribe certain medications (oral contraceptives) that can increase your LDL and/or triglyceride levels even further.
Are you at risk for high cholesterol? You may have the deck stacked against you if you have a family history of high cholesterol. But there are ways to deal with the problem.