High Blood Cholesterol
last Updated: 09/29/2005
Because of its reputation as a risk factor for heart disease, people tend to think of cholesterol only in
negative terms. But cholesterol is an important component of cell membranes and is vital to the structure
and function of all of your body's cells. Cholesterol also is a building block in the formation of certain
types of hormones.
Still, 37 million American adults have high blood cholesterol levels, and 105 million have cholesterol
levels that are higher than desirable (hypercholesterolemia). If you're one of these people with this
largely preventable condition, you may be on your way to heart disease.
When the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, a blood fat, in your bloodstream become too high, your
likelihood of developing cholesterol-containing fatty deposits (plaques) in your blood vessels increases.
Over time, plaques cause your arteries to narrow, which impedes blood flow and creates a condition
called atherosclerosis. Narrowing of the arteries that supply your heart with blood (coronary artery
disease) can prevent your heart from getting as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs. This means an
increased risk of a heart attack. Likewise, decreased blood flow to your brain can cause a stroke. Less
blood flowing to your lower limbs may result in exercise-related pain or even gangrene.
The good news is that with the help of lifestyle changes and possibly medications, you may be able to
lower your high blood cholesterol. It's estimated that if there were a 10 percent reduction in cholesterol
levels throughout the U.S. population, the rate of heart disease would drop by 30 percent.
Signs and symptoms
There are no symptoms of high blood cholesterol. The only way to find out if you have high blood
cholesterol is by having a blood test.
To circulate in your blood, which is mainly water, cholesterol and triglycerides — a form of fat — must be
carried by proteins called apoproteins. A lipoprotein is a combination of a lipid — a fatty substance in the
blood — and an apoprotein.
The main types of lipoproteins are:
Having a low level of LDL cholesterol and a high level of HDL cholesterol is desirable for lowering your
risk of developing plaques and coronary artery disease.
You may have high LDL cholesterol as a result of genetic makeup or lifestyle choices, or both. Your genes
can give you cells that don't remove LDL cholesterol from your blood efficiently or a liver that produces
too much cholesterol as VLDL particles. Your genetic makeup can also result in too few HDL particles.
These lifestyle choices can cause or contribute to high levels of total cholesterol:
These factors increase the likelihood that high total cholesterol levels will lead to atherosclerosis:
Screening and diagnosis
A good way to detect high blood cholesterol early, so that you can take steps to improve your health, is to
have a regular blood test to measure your cholesterol level. A blood test to check cholesterol levels
To measure cholesterol subtypes accurately, this test — called a lipid panel or lipid profile — requires that
you avoid eating or drinking anything (other than water) for nine to 12 hours before your blood is drawn.
Interpreting the numbers
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood. But what are
the optimal levels of these various lipids? The following tables from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood
Institute offer general guidelines.
Below 200 mg/dL Desirable
200-239 mg/dL Borderline high
240 mg/dL and above High
Below 100 mg/dL Optimal
100-129 mg/dL Near optimal
130-159 mg/dL Borderline high
160-189 mg/dL High
190 mg/dL and above Very high
Below 40 mg/dL Bad
40-59 mg/dL Better
60 mg/dL and above Best
Below 150 mg/dL Desirable
150-199 mg/dL Borderline high
200-499 mg/dL High
500 or above Very high
LDL targets differ
Because LDL cholesterol has a major association with heart disease, it's the main focus of cholesterol-
lowering treatment. So it's important to know your LDL target number. The problem is that this target
can vary, depending on your underlying risk of heart disease.
People at low risk of heart disease may be fine with an LDL level of 160 mg/dL. Those with a slightly
higher risk should probably aim lower to reach 130 mg/dL. And while an LDL level under 100 mg/dL
seems to be good for most people, some people at very high risk may need to try to get their LDL number
under 70 mg/dL.
Are you at very high risk? You might be if you have had a heart attack in the past or if you have diabetes.
You may also be in the very high risk group if you have two or more of the following risk factors:
How often should you be tested?
Have your baseline cholesterol tested when you're in your 20s and then at least every five years. If your
values aren't within desirable ranges, your doctor may advise more frequent measurements.
You can also purchase a home cholesterol test. These tests measure only total cholesterol, are less
sophisticated than laboratory tests and may give unreliable results.
Children generally don't need to undergo cholesterol testing, unless there's a family history of early-onset
High blood cholesterol can cause you to develop heart disease. The American Heart Association reports
that heart disease kills over 1.4 million Americans each year, more than all cancer deaths combined.
Many of these deaths occur because of the accumulation of fatty deposits (plaques) on the walls of your
arteries (atherosclerosis), resulting in narrowed or blocked arteries. Cholesterol plays a significant role in
this largely preventable condition.
Atherosclerosis is initially a silent, painless condition that results in reduced blood flow. If reduced flow
occurs in the arteries that supply your heart with blood (coronary arteries), it can lead to a type of chest
pain called angina pectoris.
As a plaque enlarges, the inner lining of your artery becomes roughened. A tear or rupture in the plaque
may cause a blood clot to form. Such a clot can block the flow of blood or break free and plug an artery
If the flow of blood to a part of your heart is stopped, you'll have a heart attack. If blood flow to a part of
your brain stops, a stroke occurs.
High blood cholesterol along with high blood pressure, insulin resistance and obesity are factors that
make up metabolic syndrome, a combination of disorders which greatly increases your risk of developing
heart disease, stroke or diabetes.
Having a high number of cholesterol particles (lipoproteins) in your blood increases your risk of a
buildup of cholesterol within the wall of your artery. Eventually, bumps called plaques may form,
narrowing or even blocking your artery.
Lifestyle changes are the first steps you can take to improve your blood levels of cholesterol and
triglycerides. These include changes in diet, regular exercise and avoiding smoking. If you've made these
important lifestyle changes and your total cholesterol — especially your level of LDL cholesterol —
remains high, your doctor may recommend prescription medication.
Before recommending medication, your doctor may weigh many variables — your changeable risk
factors, your age, your current health and the drug's side effects. If you need a medication to improve
your cholesterol levels, chances are you may need it for many years.Your LDL cholesterol level is usually
the deciding factor.
Medications to improve blood cholesterol levels include:
Improving your blood cholesterol levels reduces your risk of heart disease. Lifestyle changes are your
first course of action to improve your blood cholesterol levels. These approaches include eating a healthy
diet, exercising and not smoking.
Eating a healthy diet
These changes in your diet can improve your blood cholesterol levels:
Being overweight promotes a high total cholesterol level. Losing weight improves your cholesterol levels.
Set up an exercise program to lose weight using these guidelines and your doctor's advice:
If you smoke, stop. If you don't smoke, don't start. Cigarette smoking damages the walls of your blood
vessels, making them prone to accumulating fatty deposits. If you stop smoking, your HDL cholesterol
may return to its former level.
|© 2008 paolonanafitness.com. All rights reserved.|