Cholesterol is a fat-like molecule that is found in naturally occuring quantities in cells throughout the body. Cholesterol is produced by the body – specifically by the liver – in sufficient quantities to be transported throughout the body.
In addition to assisting the body in producing and maintaining the proper amounts of vitamin D and hormones, having the proper cholesterol levels also assists the body in digestion.
Cholesterol can be found in a variety of meals, including meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products, among others. Individuals who consume animal products may have higher levels of cholesterol in their bloodstream at any one time. This occurs as a result of the liver increasing cholesterol levels when a diet is heavy in fat and trans fats.
The amount of cholesterol in the body has a significant impact on heart health.
During a standard physical examination or blood test, a doctor may recommend that cholesterol levels be measured. This test determines whether the body is creating too much or too little cholesterol, depending on the results. As a result, it may be required to make dietary modifications or to take medicine as advised.
In the human body, there are three main forms of cholesterol. Lipoproteins, which are made up of lipids and proteins, transport cholesterol in the body.
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL), high-density lipoproteins (HDL), and very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) are the three types of cholesterol (VLDL).
Triglycerides are found in all three forms of cholesterol, however they make up nearly half of VLDL.
LDL cholesterol is referred to as “bad” cholesterol because it can build up on artery walls, causing heart disease and other major problems. Cholesterol blockages can potentially dislodge from arterial walls, resulting in blood clots.
Less than 100 milligrammes per decilitre of blood (mg/dL) is the ideal LDL cholesterol level. Between 100 and 129 mg/dL is considered normal, 130 to 159 mg/dL is borderline high, 160 to 189 mg/dL is high, and 190 mg/dL is extremely high.
HDL cholesterol is regarded as “good” cholesterol since it aids in the removal of harmful cholesterol from the bloodstream, hence reducing the risk of heart disease.
HDL cholesterol levels of 60 mg/dL or higher are considered optimum. A concentration of less than 40 mg/dL is considered abnormally low.
VLDL is made up of lipids that are carried in the bloodstream as a result of the foods we eat, as well as extra calories that are converted to triglycerides. VLDL, like LDL, is linked to plaque buildup in the arteries, raising the risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke. It’s a figure that represents the percentage of triglycerides in the body.
The optimal VLDL level is less than 30 mg/dL.
The following are the recommended total cholesterol levels:
- Optimal: Less than 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L)
- Borderline high: 200-239 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L to 13.3 mmol/L)
- High: 240 mg/dL (13.3 mmol/L) or more
Distinct countries, however, have different rules. Total cholesterol levels should be kept below 193.3 mg/dl (5 mmol/L) in South Africa, for example.
A sample of blood will be collected from the arm after a period of fasting while assessing cholesterol levels in a normal blood test.
The total cholesterol level is calculated by adding the HDL, LDL, and 20% of the triglyceride level. These figures will tell a doctor how likely a patient is to develop heart disease, type 2 diabetes, artery disease, and other illnesses.
Factors affecting cholesterol
HDL cholesterol levels in women are higher than in men. This is because oestrogen, a female sex hormone, elevates these levels. When women are of childbearing age, their oestrogen levels are at their maximum. Estrogen levels drop during menopause, which means HDL levels are likely to drop as well.
According to a 2011 survey by the American Heart Association (AHA), 41.8 percent of males over the age of 20 had total cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dL or greater, compared to 46.3 percent of women.
LDL readings of 130 md/dL or below were found in 32.5 percent of men and 31.0 percent of women. Only 9.7% of men had HDL values less than 40 mg/dL, compared to 28.6% of women.
Despite the fact that cardiovascular disease is thought to mostly afflict older men, it is still the biggest cause of mortality in women in the United States (US) and around the world. Since 1984, more women have died of heart disease than males every year.
The probability of acquiring heart disease is also influenced by one’s age. These figures are used by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to show the percentage of people with high cholesterol.
The following are the percentages, which are broken down by age and gender:
- 20s: 22 percent
- 30s: 38 percent
- 40s: 50 percent
- 50s: 62 percent
The following are some other factors that influence cholesterol levels:
- Diet: Saturated fat, trans fat, and carbohydrates-rich foods are known to raise cholesterol levels. Limiting these foods will aid in blood cholesterol regulation and reduction.
- Weight: Being overweight or obese carries a number of dangers, including an increase in triglycerides. Maintaining a healthy weight is beneficial to many aspects of one’s health, including heart disease.
- Exercise: Being physically active for at least 30 minutes per day raises a person’s heart rate, aids weight maintenance, and lowers LDL cholesterol while raising HDL cholesterol.
- Heredity. High cholesterol is unfortunately unchangeable and can run in families.
When to see a doctor
Both men and women over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol and a blood panel evaluated every 4 to 6 years, according to the American Heart Association.
This information can be used by doctors to treat early-stage illnesses. They can even anticipate your chance of having a heart attack or stroke in the next ten years or for the rest of your life. Because high cholesterol has no symptoms, it is critical for patients to obtain regular checkups.
If a blood test reveals excessive cholesterol levels, a doctor can assist in developing a strategy to mitigate the dangers. Lifestyle adjustments, such as exercise, diet, prescription medicine, and dietary counselling, may be included in this plan.
Weight loss and regular exercise, avoiding sugary foods and alcohol, and taking cholesterol-lowering medication may all help.
High cholesterol levels are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and coronary artery disease. Obesity and a poor diet raise the risk.
Heart disease is a severe problem in the United States, and it is the leading cause of mortality. While heart disease cannot be cured, it can be managed and avoided by eating trans and saturated fats only on rare occasions.