We all know that it’s important to keep your cholesterol levels under control. But what is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance present in cells throughout the body. The body uses cholesterol to produce hormones, vitamin D and acids that aid digestion. High Cholesterol is a common medical condition typically associated with heart disease. If you have too much cholesterol in your bloodstream, your arteries can narrow and cause health problems such as heart attacks, strokes and peripheral artery disease.
Cholesterol is derived from two main sources. Diet and the body itself. The liver is the primary organ for producing cholesterol. It is also produced by the intestine, testes, ovaries and adrenal cortex. The body synthesizes cholesterol partly by the intake of dietary cholesterol. Because the body can produce its own cholesterol, there is a chance that people who have a genetic metabolic disorders can have high cholesterol even without the excessive intake of cholesterol.
Hypercholesterolemia and Heart Disease
The body requires a cholesterol to function. But too much cholesterol in the blood, along with other fatty substances can form into plaque. Plaque can build up and stick to the walls of the arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood and oxygen to the brain and body. This is called atherosclerosis.
As plaque deposits build up in an artery, the passage becomes narrower and narrower, making it hard for blood to pass through. This can cause blockage as well as make the artery more elastic. When this happens, it’s known as hardening of the arteries. Sometimes plaque can break or rupture, causing blood clots to form in the artery. If the clot blocks the artery entirely, no blood can pass through. This is how most heart attacks and strokes occur.
How Are Cholesterol Levels Tested?
You can have your cholesterol levels checked by getting a blood test called a lipid profile. The test measures 4 different areas:
1. Total Cholesterol
2. Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL)
3. High Density Lipoproteins (HDL)
Your doctor can explain to you the result of your blood test, and figure out if your cholesterol levels are normal or need treatment. It’s a good idea to have your cholesterol levels measured at least once every 5 years if you are over the age of 18. Health specialists recommend that men over the age of 35 and women over the age of 45 should have their cholesterol levels checked more often.
The blood test results will appear as numbers. Many people are confused on how to interpret their cholesterol numbers, but it’s really quite simple. The first thing you should understand is that the numbers alone are not able to accurately predict your risk of heart problems. Nor can they give you insight into how you can reduce your risk for heart conditions.
Instead, they make up part of an equation that has to do with your age, blood pressure, any medications you are taking and how often you smoke. Your doctor will use all these factors to determine the proper course of treatment, including your ten year risk for sever heart conditions.
LDL cholesterol is known as the “bad” kind of cholesterol. It can build up on the artery walls, increasing your risk for disease. The lower your LDL levels are, the lower your risk is.
After calculating your risk, your doctor will give you a goal in the form of a percentage by which to lower your LDL number. This is typically done with a combination of diet, exercise and medications. If your LDL number is 190 or higher, you are in the danger zone. Your physician will almost certainly recommend immediate course of action in this case.
HDL cholesterol is known as the “good” type of cholesterol. The higher your HDL number, the lower your risk. HDL cholesterol can prevent heart disease because it removes the bad cholesterol (LDL) out of your blood, preventing it from building up in the arteries. Exercise, diet and medication can be used to increase HDL levels.
Triglycerides come in the form of fats from foods you eat and fats produced by the body. Higher triglyceride levels indicate a higher risk of coronary artery disease. Below is a breakdown of the numbers.
· Under 150 = Normal
· 150 – 199 = Slightly High
· 200-499 = High
· 500 or above = Very High
· Total Cholesterol
Your total blood cholesterol includes measurements of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and other lipid components. This number will be used by your doctor when calculating your risk for heart disease.
Your health care provider will work with you to determine which course of treatments suits you best. Total Home Health can connect you with experienced health care experts who are ready to help you live a long, healthy and fulfilling life. Join Total Home Health today to benefit from our exclusive services.