Cholesterol with its link to heart attack, stroke, and other types of cardiovascular disease is often presented as the ‘ bad substance ruing lives’. The fact, however, is that cholesterol is a type of lipid that is needed by our body to make cell membranes, key hormones like testosterone and estrogen, bile acids and vitamin D.
The body makes all the cholesterol it needs from scratch. Cholesterol is also found in foods from animal sources, such as egg yolks, meat, and cheese.
There are different types of cholesterol:
HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) called the “good” cholesterol carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to the liver.
LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) It is called the “bad” cholesterol because a high LDL level leads to the build-up of plaque in your arteries.
VLDL (Very Low-Density Lipoprotein) It is also “bad” cholesterol because it too contributes to the build-up of plaque in your arteries. However, VLDL and LDL are different; VLDL carries triglycerides and LDL carries cholesterol.
The common causes of high cholesterol are an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and smoking. Eating foods rich in saturated fats, trans fats, and easily digested carbohydrates boost LDL.
Besides diet, in some cases, the body is genetically prone to high cholesterol; some medication too can boost LDL.
|Healthy Blood Cholesterol Levels, by Age and Sex|
|Age 19 or Younger||Less than 170 mg/dL||Less than 120 mg/dL||Less than 100 mg/dL||More than 45mg/dL|
|Men age 20 or Older||125 to 200 mg/dL||Less than 130 mg/dL||Less than 100 mg/dL||40 mg/dL or higher|
|Women age 20 or older||125 to
|Less than 130 mg/dL||Less than 100 mg/dL||50 mg/dL or higher|
Bad for health
What makes Cholesterol bad for our health is the quantity of it in the bloodstream. Excess cholesterol combines with other substances in the blood to form plaque, which sticks to the walls of the arteries. This build-up of plaque known as atherosclerosis can lead to coronary arteries becoming narrow or even blocked. If there are large deposits of plaque in your arteries, an area of plaque can rupture causing a blood clot to form on the surface of the plaque. If the clot becomes large, it can block blood flow in a coronary artery. If the flow of blood to your heart muscle is reduced or blocked, it can cause angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.
Plaque buildup in arteries that bring oxygen-rich blood to your brain and limbs can cause stroke, carotid artery disease, and peripheral arterial disease.
Testing for cholesterol levels
There are usually no signs or symptoms that you have high cholesterol.
A blood test is used to measure cholesterol level.
• With the increasing trend in childhood and teen obesity the first test should be between ages 9 to 11 and repeated after again every five years
• Younger adults over 20 years should have the test every five years
• Men ages 45 to 65 and women ages 55 to 65 should have it every 1 to 2 years.
If you think you may have high cholesterol, or are worried about having high cholesterol because of strong family history, make an appointment with your family doctor or our cardiologists for advice.
Dr Nitin Bote, Interventional Cardiologist K J Somaiya Hospital, Super Speciality Centre