WHAT IS CHOLESTEROL?
Cholesterol is a waxy type of fat that is both ingested in foods we eat, and produced by our liver. Some cholesterol is required by the body to perform essential functions, however, many people have too much of it in their bodies.
What are the types of CHOLESTEROL?
HDL is high-density lipoprotein is known as the “good cholesterol”. It helps the body to get rid of excess cholesterol by carrying it from the cells back to the liver for breakdown. Your total HDL cholesterol should be over 1.0 mmol/L for men and over 1.3 mmol/L for women.
LDL is low-density lipoprotein and this is the “bad” cholesterol. It carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells. When the body has too much LDL, excess LDL forms plaques on the walls of arteries which slows the flow of blood and raises blood pressure. These plaques can also break loose and cause a heart attack or stroke. Your total LDL cholesterol should be under 3.5 mmol/L.
Your total cholesterol level should be less than 5.2 mmol/L.
Triglycerides are the main forms of fat stores in your body, found in your blood. When we eat excess calories, they are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells. If and when your body is short of energy and you do not eat, the triglycerides are converted into usable energy.
What factors contribute to high cholesterol?
-High saturated fat in the diet
-Lack of physical activity
-High stress levels
-Taking certain medication
Symptoms of High Cholesterol
There are no symptoms of high cholesterol on it’s own, so it is not possible to know without testing whether someone has high cholesterol or not. It is important to get cholesterol tested and checked, if left untreated, plaque and bloackages in arteries can lead to angina, heart attack, or stroke.
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood in the United States and some other countries. Doctors are the only people that should advise folks if their cholesterol levels are satisfactory or not, but in general, the goals are…
- Total cholesterol level – less than 200 mg/dL
- LDL (bad cholesterol) – between 100-129 mg/dL
- HDL (good cholesterol) – 50 mg/dL and above
- Total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol ratio – less than 5.0
- Triglyceride level – below 150 mg/dL
What are the treatments for high cholesterol?
Normally the first and most important step in the prevention and treatment of high cholesterol starts with lifestyle changes. This includes eating a healthier diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding tobacco smoke. People should always check with their doctor before starting a new exercise program, to ensure it is appropiate and effective.
- Fruits and vegetables: At least 4.5 cups a day
- Fish (preferably oily fish): At least two 3.5-ounce servings a week
- Fiber-rich whole grains: At least three 1-ounce-equivalent servings a day
- Sodium: Less than 1,500 mg a day
- Sugar-sweetened beverages: No more than 450 calories (36 ounces) a week
Other Dietary Measures:
- Nuts, legumes and seeds: At least 4 servings a week
- Processed meats: No more than 2 servings a week
- Saturated fat: Less than 7% of total energy intake
Some people will require medication to lower their cholesterol.
For some people, making lifelstyle changes will be very effective, and for other, these changes alone will not be enough to reduce cholesterol levels to a healthy range. In these cases, cholesterol lowering medications may need to be prescribed. While these drugs can help affect changes and lower cholesterol levels in people, they may not be able to, on their own, completely compensate for a healthier lifestyle. Most often doctors will recommend lifesyle changes in combination with cholesterol lowering medications. Everyone should consult with a doctor before making lifesyle changes, including starting an exercise program, drastically changing their diet, etc.
There are many different types of medications available for the treatment and lowering of cholesterol, such as statins, resins, fibrates, niacin, and cholesterol absorption inhibitors. Each type has it’s own benefits and drawbacks. Each person must be assessed individually by their doctor to determine which one is right for them.
- Statins (HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors) – block an enzyme in your liver that produces cholesterol. Statins are useful for treatment and prevention of atherosclerosis.
- Aspirin – not be given to children under 16 years of age.
- Fibric acid derivatives are drugs given to lower triglyceride levels (these include gemfibrozil, fenofibrate and clofibrate)
- Niacin is a B vitamin found in various foods. High doses can be taken with a doctor’s prescription and will bring down both LDL and HDL levels.
- Anti hypertensive drugs – if you have high blood pressure your doctor may prescribe Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), diuretics, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers.
Your doctor must carefully assess you and sometimes a combination of drugs is found to be the right solution. If you are taking cholesterol medication and experience unpleasant side effects, speak to your doctor, and do not decide on your own to stop taking your cholesterol medication.