SSome medical phrases can make individuals anxious, and “CHOLESTEROL” is one of them. The human body naturally produces cholesterol. Therefore, there’s nothing wrong with it. However, having too much of it in your blood might be harmful. But this article covers all about it and its effects of increase and decrease in the body.
Cholesterols are a yellowish-white waxy substance found in food. It is carried about by the blood and influences every organ and cell in the body. It performs the following duties, as been studied yet.
- Building cell membranes. For example, T-cells (a type of white blood cell) would be unable to keep their cell membranes from rupturing without cholesterol.
- Making Hormones. is also required in the production of sex hormones like testosterone and progesterone, and other steroid-based hormones. Other than aldosterone, cortisol also requires its presence.
- Processing Vitamin D. is synthesized by the skin and requires the presence of it.
- Making digestive fluids. It also facilitates the production of bile acids, which aid in the digestion and absorption of fats in the digestive tract.
Cholesterol can be found naturally in some foods, but the vast majority (approximately 80%) is synthesized in the liver by 25–30% via a 37-step process.
The synthesis occurs at the rate of around 1 g each day in a healthy adult, bringing the total body content to about 35 g. Adrenal glands, intestines, reproductive systems, etc., also produce little quantities.
Cholesterol and another form of blood fat called triglycerides cannot flow freely in the blood. They and cholesterol are both water-insoluble. Therefore, they require protein molecules known as lipoproteins to transport them in the blood throughout the body.
Types of Cholesterols.
Lipoproteins come in a wide variety, the most common of which are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). They have been classified and given names based on their relative “density.” Therefore, lipoproteins that contain more protein are dense or heavier. Low-density foods are those that have less protein and more fat. More explanation can be found below,
- Low-density lipoproteins (LDL). These lipoproteins are low in density due to their high cholesterol content. Their function is to transport cholesterol to cells where it is required. If there is an excessive amount of LDL in the blood, cholesterol can coat the blood vessel walls, causing them to become clogged.
- High-density lipoproteins (HDL). These are packed with protein and low in cholesterol. Thus, they have a “high density.” They are commonly referred to as “good cholesterol” since they can aid disease prevention. They transport cholesterol away from cells and back to the liver, eliminating it from the body.
- Very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL). These are bulkier, high in fat, and poor in protein, resulting in an extremely low density. They carry liver-produced cholesterol and triglycerides throughout the body. Like LDLs, excessive VLDLs in the blood can lead to fat deposition in the arterial walls, resulting in clogging.
- Triglycerides. Triglycerides are the most prevalent kind of body fat. They are derived from food and produced by the body. They can also accumulate within the arterial walls and create plaque.
All these types are released into the circulation to transport fats to where they are needed throughout the body. But sometimes, it accumulates in the body when we eat more than the required amount. Many health issues may become more likely as a result of this.
Dietary Cholesterol. Should one be worried?
It contributes just around 20% of the total quantity. Eggs, dairy, meat, and seafood are all good examples of foods that contain them. According to established dietary guidelines, it was considered that daily cholesterol intake should be below 300 mg. But in light of the latest research, eating cholesterol does not increase heart disease risk in healthy persons. When healthy, the human body can make its cholesterol and, more significantly, can get rid of any excess.
But why is it a concern then? When you eat too much fatty foods or drink too much alcohol, the liver produces more cholesterol and releases it in the blood stream. If too many calories are taken in, the liver changes them into triglycerides, storing them as fat.
This is why physicians recommend watching your saturated and trans fats in your diet, as well as the amounts of fast foods and processed foods.
Even though there is no link between dietary cholesterol and heart disease, your doctor may recommend cutting back on saturated fat and loading up on fruits, veggies, and fiber. (1)
You need to consume the optimum amount of lipids for your body to work properly. Too many lipids provide a concern since the body cannot utilize them all. Arterial plaque forms as a result of the excess lipids. Although this plaque may not induce symptoms for many years, it gradually grows in size inside your arteries without causing any obvious symptoms. This is the reason why untreated elevated levels are considered harmful.
The most common cholesterol disorder is hyperlipidemia, which is characterized by increased blood cholesterol levels. This narrows the arteries and ultimately causes heart attacks, peripheral arterial diseases, and strokes.
Over the suggested level of 200 mg/dL, 93 million American individuals (age 20 and older) have a total cholesterol count that exceeds the recommended range.
Excessive levels of LDL in the bloodstream can lead to artery damage, cardiovascular disease, and an increased risk of stroke over time. It can affect the following organs and systems upon its elevation,
Brain. The brain accounts for around 25% of the total cholesterol in the body. The formation and maintenance of nerve cells, which allow the brain to relay information to the rest of the body, depend on this fat. Cholesterol buildup in the arteries can lead to strokes, which disrupt blood flow and can cause damage to specific areas of the brain, leading to impairments in motor skills, speech, and memory.
High cholesterol levels also affect memory and cognition. Beta-amyloid plaques are sticky protein deposits that cause damage to the brain in Alzheimer’s patients. High blood cholesterol may speed up the production of these plaques. Learn more about them in this article.
In Heart & Circulation.
Too much LDL in circulation might result in arterial hardening and diminished flexibility. Atherosclerosis is a condition wherein the arteries stiffen due to excessive cholesterol. If your arteries are rigid, your heart must work harder to circulate blood through them. Untreated arterial plaque can cause heart disease.
Plaque accumulation in coronary arteries can impede oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart muscle. This may result in chest pain, known as angina which is a predictor.
- Plaque may break off and create a clot, or the artery may narrow and completely obstruct the blood supply to the heart, causing a heart attack.
- Similarly, if it occurs in brain arteries, it can trigger a stroke.
- It can also block blood flow to the digestive, leg, and foot arteries forming a condition known as a peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
Digestive System. The liver uses cholesterol to make bile, which aids digestion and nutritional absorption in the intestines. However, if your bile contains too much, it can harden into stones and block your bile ducts with gallstones which can be painful enough.
Endocrine System. Hormones can also influence your body’s cholesterol levels. Such as,
- Studies show that HDL rises and LDL falls in accordance with a woman’s estrogen levels during her menstrual cycle. Estrogen decline after menopause may raise a woman’s risk of heart disease. This could be one reason a female’s risk of developing heart disease increases after menopause when estrogen levels decline.
- A growth hormone deficit can also increase LDL levels.
- As per research, low thyroid levels can cause an increase in LDLs, whereas high thyroid levels can result in the opposite.
Sexual Organs. Hyperlipidemia can also lead to erectile dysfunction, which is the inability to attain or sustain an erection during sexual activity. Long-term elevated cholesterol appears to cause a constriction of the penis’s smaller blood arteries, which should expand to enable more blood for an erection.
The following table summarizes its effects on the body.
|Body Area||Effects of high levels.|
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Maintaining a healthy level throughout life can save you from developing these above-mentioned conditions.
Causes of High levels.
There are a variety of reasons why your cholesterol and triglycerides may rise. For example
- Weight: Cholesterol levels are known to rise in those who are overweight or obese. It has been well documented that every 10 pounds of excess weight cause your body to manufacture an additional 10 mg of cholesterol daily.
- Aging: With aging, the rise becomes evident, and evidence suggests that even children and young people can nonetheless have high cholesterol levels.
- Race: There may be a racial difference in the incidence of high cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels tend to be greater in African Americans than whites. According to data, at 29.4%, non-Hispanic white males have the lowest rate of elevated LDL cholesterol, followed by non-Hispanic black men at 30.7% and Mexican American men at 38.4%.
- Genetics: It’s possible for high blood cholesterol to run in families. The condition is called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH).
- Smoking. Smoking increases “bad” LDL cholesterol while lowering “good” HDL cholesterol in the blood as well as an increase in VLDL cholesterol (very low-density lipoprotein) and a buildup of lipids in the artery wall. Research has found it to increase the risk of fatal diseases by up to 25%.
- Bad eating habits. Unhealthy eating habits, including a diet high in unhealthy fats. There is evidence that if consumed in larger quantities, lipids and saturated fats found in meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, deep-fried foods, and processed foods raise LDL levels.
- Low level of physical activity. Insufficient physical activity, which results in the ineffective storage of fat rather than its usage for energy, can also contribute to this.
- Other medical conditions. High cholesterol can also be caused by other medical issues such as kidney problems, diabetes, PCOs, and hypo and hypothyroidism.
- Medicines. Contraceptives, retinoids, corticosteroids, antivirals, and anticonvulsants are all in this category.
In general, lower cholesterol levels are preferable. However, in rare situations, extremely low levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) have been connected with some health issues such as hypolipidemia.
People with low cholesterol may or may not exhibit symptoms. When they do, they may be caused by the low levels themselves or by the underlying condition that is causing it. Symptoms include fatty stools, visual changes, depression, weight loss, and fatigue. Despite the rarity of the risks, having very low levels of LDL cholesterol may increase your risk for cancer, preterm birth, congenital abnormalities in children, and depression.
That is why it is always recommended to consult a medical professional for advice on diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing care.
There are typically no signs or symptoms associated with high cholesterol, so a blood test is the only reliable way to determine if levels are within a safe range.
Doctors use a lipid profile to measure cholesterol levels also called a lipid pane. This test determines the levels of good HDL and bad LDL cholesterol. Milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) is the unit of measurement used in laboratories to record a person’s test result. It is interpreted as the following results,
|Total (serum) cholesterol||below 5.0||below 193|
|Non-HDL cholesterol||below 4.0||below 155|
|LDL cholesterol||below 3.0||below 116|
|HDL cholesterol||above 1.0 for a man |
above 1.2 for a woman
(ideally around 1.4, but higher levels might not give extra protection)
|above 39 for a man |
above 46 for a woman
|TC: HDL ratio||Above 6 is considered high risk – the lower this figure is, the better||Above 6 is considered high risk – the lower this figure is, the better|
To learn more about lipid panels, read our exclusive article for medical tests here.
The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests having your levels checked in the following age brackets,
- Even without risk factors or a family history of heart disease, between the ages of 9 and 11 and again between 17 and 21.
- Every 4–6 years beginning at age 20, as long as there is reduced risk in previous readings.
- It’s recommended yearly or two for males 45 to 65 and women 55 to 65.
A healthy cholesterol level is related to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
The lab could also check your triglycerides if you get your cholesterol checked. Triglyceride levels in the blood are best measured after a period of fasting, often 10-14 hours before a blood sample is taken. These are the normal ranges for triglycerides in adults and are considered ideal.
|Fasting triglyceride||below 1.7mmol/L||below 150mg/dL|
|Non-fasting triglyceride||below 2.3mmol/L||below 204mg/dL|
Pregnancy can raise cholesterol and triglycerides significantly. The results of a cholesterol test during pregnancy are not reliable. Therefore, we advise against doing one. We recommend waiting at least 6-8 weeks after giving birth or discontinuing nursing before having your cholesterol checked.
You may need to undergo additional testing if your cholesterol levels turn out to be higher than normal.
- A diabetes screening by blood glucose levels
- Medical examinations of the kidneys
- Checking for an underactive thyroid gland with thyroid function testing
You may also determine your risk of cardiovascular disease using an online tool made available by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Another tool formed by American College of Cardiology can also estimate the risk of heart diseases.
General targets are:
- LDL: 70 to 130 mg/dL (lower numbers are better)
- HDL: Greater than 50 mg/dL (higher numbers are better)
- Cholesterol total: less than 200 mg/dL (lower numbers are better)
- Triglycerides: 10 to 150 mg/dL (lower numbers are better)
If you are 20 or older, you should have your cholesterol checked at least once every five years. More frequent screenings are recommended for men over the age of 35 and women over the age of 45.
Cholesterol is frequently associated with major health problems such as heart disease and stroke, although not all of it is harmful. The good news is that you can reduce your cholesterol and triglycerides by combining medicinal therapy and lifestyle adjustments. Reducing blood fats and lipids can help you avoid disease or slow the progression of existing conditions an Prime with time!