Cholesterol abnormalities go undetected until they manifest in the physical form, or are regularly monitored. WHO data suggests that about 16% of the American population suffers from undiagnosed and hence, untreated high cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol is present naturally in our bodies, and the highly waxy, sticky substance is among the most fat rich. Cholesterol is produced by the body, and can also be found as a major component in food like shellfish and eggs. Cholesterol is important for digestion of food, and the production of hormones and vitamins by the body.
But, as is wisely said, too much or too little of anything is bad. Too much of cholesterol is definitely not good, and can be the cause of major problems like atherosclerosis. Excess cholesterol in the body sticks to the walls of the arteries and over time cause them to harden.
This reduces the width of the arteries, which means the heart has to push harder to circulate blood through the body. This results in problems like high blood pressure. Sustained and untreated high cholesterol level in the body can even lead to heart attack and stroke. Since there not distinct symptoms for high cholesterol levels, regular monitoring with increasing age is a must.
People who consume excess fatty foods, are obese or overweight, or have the condition running in the family, are very highly susceptible to high levels of cholesterol and hence, increased risk of heart diseases.
Cholesterol is found in the form of lipoproteins in the body. These are basically small lipid packages capsule inside proteins. There are two types of lipoproteins or cholesterol:
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL): also called good cholesterol. These HDL packages carry the fat through the body to the liver, from where it is expelled out from the body. Having high HDL levels reduces the risk of heart diseases.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): also called bad cholesterol. These are the ones that stick to the arterial walls and cause the constriction of the blood pathways. Increased LDL levels are bad, and are indicative of high risk of heart diseases.
LDL vs. HDL
When the blood is tested for levels of cholesterol, there are 3 results: the total blood cholesterol or serum cholesterol, HDL and LDL levels. Here are the American Heart Association’s guidance notes for reading these levels
Total blood cholesterol levels:
- Less than 200 mg/dL: desirable
- 200 to 239 mg/dL: borderline-high risk
- More than 240 mg/dL: high risk
- Less than 40 mg/dL for men: poor
- less than 50 mg/dL for women: poor
- 40 to 50 mg/dL for men: average
- 50 to 60 mg/dL for women: average
- More than 60 mg/dL: best
LDL (bad) cholesterol level:
- Less than 100 mg/dL: optimal
- 100 to 129 mg/dL: almost optimal
- 130 to 159 mg/dL: borderline high
- 160 to 189 mg/dL: high
- 190 mg/dL and above: very high
There is no research to prove if balancing high levels of HDL with high levels of LDL reduces the risk of heart problems and cholesterol. But, as common sense says, that is probably not a good solution. High LDL levels are considered an alarm for starting treatment and considered major lifestyle changes.
How to deal with High Cholesterol Levels
Researches by the American Heart Association show, that people with high levels of total blood serum cholesterol and LDL are doubly at the risk of falling prey to heart problems and diseases, when compared to people with average levels of the two quantities. This means that a difference of about 40 mg/dL can drastically reduce the risk of developing ailments of the heart.
The key to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol is to regularly monitor cholesterol levels, monitor weight by consuming a healthy balanced diet, avoiding smoking and excessive drinking, and including physical activity in some or the other form in the daily routine.
Maintaining a healthy BMI can help in reducing the risk dramatically. Lowering cholesterol levels will as consequence, reduce the vulnerability and risk of heart problems including stroke and high blood pressure.