High cholesterol numbers – a risk factor for heart disease
High cholesterol numbers have received a lot of bad publicity over the years, let us take a closer look at what this unwanted phenomenon really is …
As you are probably aware, heart disease is the leading killer in the western world today, and high cholesterol numbers – the medical term is hyperlipidemia – is a major risk factor for developing the disease. Each time the National Cholesterol Education Program releases its new treatment guidelines, the suggested levels for a healthy life are lower than the last edition.
You are reading this page, therefore you almost certainly fall into one of the following categories below:
A: You, or a loved one, have been diagnosed as having high cholesterol numbers or heart disease.
B: You haven’t got this problem, but you want to help avoid the problems it can bring.
Which are you ?
Well, it doesn’t really matter which category you actually fit, the important thing is that we ALL need to take care of our health and keep our lipid profile in order as much as possible.
Why is this important? Well, heart disease is the cause of death of more than half the deaths from cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease, stroke, heart failure and peripheral vascular disease. The surprising thing is that much suffering can be avoided by living a healthy lifestyle.
Confusion between lipids and cholesterol.
Let us take a look into the difference between lipids and cholesterol. Lipids are fats that are found in the blood. The two main lipids that are found in the blood are cholesterol and triglycerides. A high level of lipids is called hyperlipidemia. So as that your body can transport these fats through the blood stream, your body wraps them up in minute particles known as lipoproteins. You have probably heard of low-density lipoprotein, LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and high-density lipoproteins, HDL or “good” cholesterol.
On the other hand, cholesterol is an organic substance found in animal cells and body fluids. The body can produce all the cholesterol it needs, and the liver takes care of this. However, most people consume anywhere from 20% to 40% of cholesterol from diet. We all know that too much cholesterol is bad for the heart and should be avoided, but it does have some beneficial uses too:
cholesterol helps our digestion,
it produces bile acids,
it produces hormones, such as adrenaline, and
it produces vitamin D
Even if we have seen some of the clear advantages of cholesterol, a great number of people in the western world have high, or borderline high, cholesterol levels and should try to reduce it. According to the American Heart Association, a total cholesterol level at or above 240 is considered a high risk level of suffering a heart attack. A total cholesterol level between 200 and 239 is considered borderline risk. A desirable total cholesterol number is one that is below 200. It is calculated that about two thirds of Americans are borderline.
In order to lower cholesterol the emphasis should be on lowering your intake of saturated fats and dietary cholesterol. If you are overweight you should also reduce daily calories in order to facilitate weight loss. Regular exercise should also be part of your lifestyle. These measures generally help to reduce high cholesterol numbers.
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