We are filled with fear and anxiety when we hear the words ‘high cholesterol’ as for the past few decades, researchers and doctors have claimed that it is the cause of heart disease.
This however, is not entirely true. Read on to understand cholesterol better and the role that it plays in our bodies.
Cholesterol Facts - You are made of Cholesterol.
Your body makes cholesterol in the liver, and produces up to 3000 mg of cholesterol per day (about 10 times higher than our daily dietary recommended cholesterol). It forms an essential component in the structure of the cell membrane where it controls membrane fluidity and intra-cellular communication. The highest concentration of cholesterol in the body is found in the brain and other parts of the nervous system. It is needed to provide the structural backbone for every steroid hormone in the body, which includes all the sex hormones, adrenal hormones, bile acids and vitamin D manufacturing.
Cholesterol is insoluble. It circulates and is carried in the blood by lipoproteins; either by high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or low-density lipoprotein (LDL). The main task of HDL is to carry cholesterol from the peripheral tissues, including the artery walls, to the liver for processing and metabolised into bile salts. The LDL mainly transports cholesterol in the opposite direction. They carry it from the liver to the peripheral tissues for fatty acids uptake and to be metabolised by the cells.
Therefore, you can see that our body is constantly producing cholesterol, and carrying it to and from the liver, so that the liver can recycle it and put it back in tissues and cells for a very precise reason which is vital for our health.
Nearly 80% of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your own body. If our bodies can make cholesterol, I believe it is not there to harm us. If a healthy person eats a diet high in good fats, his liver will reduce its own cholesterol production. Whereas if you eat less fats, your body will try to keep the blood cholesterol at a healthy level by producing more.
Cholesterol - A natural protector and antioxidant.
Most people call LDL the 'lousy' cholesterol, and HDL the 'healthy' one. But LDL is not really the 'bad guy', It serves a good purpose which is to eliminate microorganisms and their toxic by-products. LDL plays an important role in our immune system. Researchers found evidence that stress hormones can mobilise cholesterol from the body and bring it into the blood to increase LDL cholesterol levels. Thus, when your body is under stress, your LDL cholesterol will spike in the blood as a signal of stress and act as protection.
Cholesterol itself is not a deadly poison; it protects cells from free-radical induced diseases, it serves as a natural cell membrane protector and antioxidant activities in the body. Most people with heart disease may have damaged arteries, and cholesterol travels on LDL to heal them. Therefore, you will have a higher reading of LDL levels. However, low levels of cholesterol usually present an increased risk for oxidative stress, where high cholesterol may protect against infectious diseases. Studies show that people above the age of 65 with high cholesterol live longer than those with low cholesterol.
What is a 'normal' cholesterol level?
Your total cholesterol reading comprises of Triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. And your cholesterol values should look like this:
|Total Cholesterol mg/dL
||120 - 200
||60 - 130
||40 - 90
||30 - 150
|150 - 220
||70 - 110
(Seek Professional advice)
|<50 or >400
||< 35 or > 350
What does the number mean to you in your lipid profile?
- The total levels of cholesterol are influenced by your metabolic rate. The elevated levels of cholesterol are often associated with thyroid or adrenal hypo-function, where decreased levels of total cholesterol are associated with endocrine hyper-function, liver disorders, and anemia.
- Elevated serum triglycerides are associated with the dysfunction of blood sugar regulation, and it is usually not in conjunction with a dietary fat problem. If there is a sign of elevated triglycerides, it is important to review your dietary intake of carbohydrates, alcohol, hydrogenated fats and dairy products. Decreased levels are usually seen in hyperthyroidism, malnutrition and malabsorption.
- Elevated cholesterol, especially LDL usually means that your body could be undergoing some inflammation that urges your cholesterol level to rise, as repairing is one of cholesterol's jobs. Elevated cholesterol is also a result of stress, nutrients deficiency, diet high in refined sugar or hydrogenated fats. Therefore, reducing inflammation in your body is the primary treatment instead of lowering the cholesterol.
- Elevated HDL is an indication of a healthy metabolic system if there is no sign of liver disease. Diets high in refined carbohydrates, lack of exercise, smoking, and genetic predisposition have been found to lower HDL.
- Dividing triglycerides by HDL cholesterol (in mg/dL) is the ratio to be associated with insulin resistance/ metabolic abnormality. Ratio less than 2 - suggests that you may have mostly large, buoyant LDL - which is not a risk factor for heart disease. If ratio is above 4, it may suggest that you have mostly small, dense LDL - which is mostly a risk factor for heart disease. (Small, dense LDL particles are associated with increased risk for heart disease because it's more likely to oxidise and cause inflammation. Large, more buoyant LDL particles are not a risk factor for heart disease.)
- Cholesterol is a repair substance in the body. If your total cholesterol levels are persistently high, these usually indicate an underlying problem that hasn't been identified; further laboratory testing should be done to address the body that is physiologically compromised. It is important to remember that your cholesterol reading in your blood test report is not a good indicator for your risk of heart disease.
High cholesterol isn't a strong risk factor for heart disease.
High cholesterol is not a strong risk factor for coronary heart disease. High cholesterol is also not statin deficiency nor the result of a high-fat diet. In the 1950s, saturated fats were condemned on the basis of them raising the blood cholesterol and causing heart disease, but this theory has since been proven wrong by most studies.
Studies at Reykjavik Hospital and Heart Preventive Clinic in Iceland noted that men over 80 with blood cholesterol levels over 250 mg/dL had less than half the death rate (48%) of those whose cholesterol levels were at the ‘ideal’ 200 mg/dL. So, heart disease and death cannot just be associated with high cholesterol, they could also be due to low cholesterol.
It is important to look at many of the other risk factors before jumping to the conclusion that high cholesterol levels are the main culprits of developing coronary artery disease. In order to get a more accurate and complete picture of the risk of coronary artery disease, you should get a complete cardiovascular risk assessment test which includes: Apolipoprotein A and B, HDL, LDL, VLDL, triglycerides, lipid electrophoresis, serum homocysteine, C-Reactive protein, and Oxidata free radical test.
True wellness doesn't rely on the statistics or any numbers on a piece of paper. Understanding the reason behind your elevated or decreased cholesterol levels is the key to health.
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