Cholesterol management is one of the most misunderstood substances in the human body. Many people automatically associate the word with heart disease, stroke, and any number of other ailments. The truth of the matter is far more complex, however.
Your body actually does need cholesterol, since it is one of building blocks of new cells, but having too much cholesterol in your blood can cause fat deposits to form in your blood vessels. The deposits inhibit blood flow, and can actually block arteries entirely, if left unchecked. The result is a lack of adequate oxygen delivery throughout the body, which can lead to a wide array of diseases.
There is some evidence that the proclivity toward high cholesterol can be passed genetically, but the majority of patients who experience high cholesterol are normally healthy individuals who make unhealthy lifestyle decisions, specifically regarding diet and exercise.
There are three primary types of cholesterol, and each is functionally different within the body. Cholesterol attaches to proteins within the blood, creating what is known as a lipoprotein. Each lipoprotein carries a separate form of cholesterol, which is outlined below:
- Very-Low-Density Lipoprotein (VLDL) This is the least commonly known form of cholesterol, and it contains more triglycerides than any other form. VLDL actually exacerbates the negative effects of having high LDL, so many patients on cholesterol medication must also take triglyceride-lowering treatments.
- Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Known as the 'bad' cholesterol, LDL is able to transport cholesterol molecules in the blood. These molecules start to build up inside your arteries, leading them to become hard, thin, and ineffective. High levels of VLDL can make LDL chains longer than they naturally exist, which furthers the overall negative effects of the 'bad' cholesterol.
- High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Commonly referred to as the 'good' form of cholesterol, HDL works against LDL in the blood by carrying extraneous cholesterol away from the blood vessels to the liver, where they are filtered.
Maintaining a proper diet and exercise regimen will prevent the accumulation of LDL in the blood, and increase the amount of HDL. While it is possible to develop high levels of LDL as a result of genetics, most patients find the factors that led to their condition are completely under their control.
A lack of cholesterol management for patients with cardiovascular conditions is partly to blame, since proper education on the best cholesterol management guidelines is vital to controlling the factors that lead to high cholesterol.
Are You At Risk For High Cholesterol?
The list below includes an outline of each of the most likely risk factors for the development of high levels of LDL.
- Sedentary Lifestyle
A lack of exercise can reduce the overall amount of HDL you have in your system, which in turn allows LDL to increase.
- High Blood Pressure
When your arteries experience high pressure, they can receive damage that causes the fat accumulation within the vessel to speed up.
- Improper Diet
Many foods are high in cholesterol, including dairy products and red meat. Trans fat, like those found in processed foods, and saturated fat found in animal products can also contribute to higher cholesterol.
Those who have a BMI (Body Mass Index) of at least 30 are more likely to develop high cholesterol.
Similar to high blood pressure, smoking causes damage to the interior of your blood vessels, which makes it easier for fat deposits to form. There is also evidence that smoking reduces HDL.
- Family History
Patients with a relative that developed heart disease prior to age 55 are more likely to develop high cholesterol