Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found among the lipids (fats) in the bloodstream and in all your body’s cells. It’s an important part of a healthy body because it’s used to form cell membranes, some hormones and is needed for other functions. But a high level of cholesterol in the blood (hypercholesterolemia) is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, which leads to heart attack.
Cholesterol and other fats can’t dissolve in the blood. They have to be transported to and from the cells by special carriers called lipoproteins. There are several kinds, but the ones to focus on are low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and Lp(a).
Low-density lipoprotein is the major cholesterol carrier in the blood. If too much LDL cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the walls of the arteries feeding the heart and brain. Together with other substances it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog those arteries. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. A clot (thrombus) that forms near this plaque can block the blood flow to part of the heart muscle and cause a heart attack. If a clot blocks the blood flow to part of the brain, a stroke results. A high level of LDL cholesterol (160 mg/dL and above) reflects an increased risk of heart disease. That’s why LDL cholesterol is called “bad” cholesterol. Lower levels of LDL cholesterol reflect a lower risk of heart disease.
About one-third to one-fourth of blood cholesterol is carried by HDL. Medical experts think HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it’s passed from the body. Some experts believe HDL removes excess cholesterol from plaques and thus slows their growth. HDL cholesterol is known as “good” cholesterol because a high HDL level seems to protect against heart attack. The opposite is also true: a low HDL level (less than 40 mg/dL) indicates a greater risk. A low HDL cholesterol level also may raise stroke risk.
Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) is a type of lipoprotein made by the liver. VLDL is one of the five major groups of lipoproteins (chylomicrons, VLDL, low-density lipoprotein, intermediate-density lipoprotein, high-density lipoprotein) that enable fats and cholesterol to move within the water-based solution of the bloodstream. VLDL is assembled in the liver from triglycerides, cholesterol, and apolipoproteins. VLDL is converted in the bloodstream to low-density lipoprotein (LDL). VLDL particles have a diameter of 30-80 nm
Lp(a) is a genetic variation of plasma LDL. A high level of Lp(a) is an important risk factor for developing atherosclerosis prematurely. How an increased Lp(a) contributes to heart disease isn’t clear. The lesions in artery walls contain substances that may interact with Lp(a), leading to the buildup of fatty deposits.
Cholesterol and Diet
People get cholesterol in two ways. The body (mainly the liver) produces varying amounts, usually about 1,000 milligrams a day. Foods also can contain cholesterol. Foods from animals (especially egg yolks, meat, poultry, fish, seafood and whole-milk dairy products) contain it. Foods from plants (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds) don’t contain cholesterol.
Typically the body makes all the cholesterol it needs, so people don’t need to consume it. Saturated fatty acids are the main culprit in raising blood cholesterol, which increases your risk of heart disease. Trans-fats also raise blood cholesterol. But dietary cholesterol also plays a part. Reports state that the everyday man consumes 337 milligrams of cholesterol a day and the everyday woman, 217 milligrams. Some of the excess dietary cholesterol is removed from the body through the liver. It is recommended that you limit your average daily cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams. If you have heart disease, limit your daily intake to less than 200 milligrams. Remember that by keeping your dietary intake of saturated fats low, you can significantly lower your dietary cholesterol intake. Foods high in saturated fat generally contain substantial amounts of dietary cholesterol.
How does exercise (physical activity) affect cholesterol?
Exercise increases HDL cholesterol in some people. A higher HDL cholesterol is linked with a lower risk of heart disease. Exercise can also help control weight, diabetes and high blood pressure. Exercise that uses oxygen to provide energy to large muscles (aerobic exercise) raises your heart and breathing rates. Regular moderate to intense exercise such as brisk walking, jogging and swimming also condition your heart and lungs. Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease. Even moderate-intensity activities, if done daily, help reduce your risk. Examples are walking for pleasure, gardening,, housework, and dancing.
How does tobacco smoke affect cholesterol?
Tobacco smoke is one of the six major risk factors of heart disease that you can change or treat. Smoking lowers HDL cholesterol levels.
How does alcohol affect cholesterol?
In some studies, moderate use of alcohol is linked with higher HDL cholesterol levels. However, because of other risks, the benefit isn’t great enough to recommend drinking alcohol if you don’t do so already.
HDL = GOOD Cholesterol, carries fats away from arteries to the liver. 50mg/dL and above shows good HDL level, higher the better.
LDL = BAD Cholesterol. Ideally less than 100mg/dL for good health, lower the better. Above 200mg/dL is serious.
VLDL = BAD! Normal VLDL cholesterol level is between 2 and 30 mg/dL.
Lp(a) = Actually a genetic variation of LDL so high levels of this signifies potential for fatty acid deposits in arteries.
Total Cholesterol level of 200mg/dL or less shows good health, 240mg/dL and above is serious risk levels. Cholesterol ratio’s are more generally discussed and if one’s level is about 4.0 mmol/l then it is considered healthy. 6 mmol/l and above is considered risky.
Red Yeast Rice contains Lovastatin and 3g of this rice per day has an anti-cholesterol effect.