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Diseases and Conditions: Why Worry about High Cholesterol?

Conditions > Diseases and Conditions: Why Worry about High Cholesterol?

Cardiovascular disease exists in 64.4 million Americans, according to the American Heart Association. Coronary heart disease is caused by arteriosclerosis. That’s a big word that basically refers to the thickening or hardening of the coronary arteries. When a person develops arteriosclerosis, he or she is at serious risk for angina pectoris, heart attack or both. Cholesterol is one of the factors physicians consider in determining your risk for heart disease.

If you have been concerned about cholesterol, you have probably heard about the two most common types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Do you know which type of cholesterol is good and which is considered bad for you?

LDL cholesterol is considered unhealthy. When too much of this kind of cholesterol gets in the blood stream, it can build up on the inner walls of the arteries. Those arteries feed the heart and brain. LDL cholesterol gangs up on your arteries with other substances to develop plaque. Thick, hard deposits of plaque can clog arteries. When that happens, the condition is called atherosclerosis. If a clot blocks a narrowed artery, the result can be a heart attack or stroke.

Health care providers monitor the amount of HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in the blood to determine your risk of having a heart attack. LDL cholesterol should be below 100 mg/dL for optimal health. A high LDL level of more than 160 mg/dL means you have an increased risk of heart disease. If you have other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, 130 mg/dL is too high.

High-Density Lipoprotein Wears the White Hat in this Story

If cholesterol were in a western movie, LDL cholesterol would wear the black hat and HDL cholesterol would wear the white hat for the positive role it plays in fighting against heart attacks.

About one-third to one-fourth of blood cholesterol is carried by high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL cholesterol seems to protect the body against heart attacks, according to the American Heart Association. Whereas people should look for low levels of LDL, high levels of HDL are desired for better health. Scientists believe HDL carries cholesterol out of the arteries and back into the liver so the body can eliminate it as waste. Some scientists believe HDL removes extra cholesterol from plaque in arteries so it doesn’t build up as fast.

If you are going to watch your cholesterol levels, you should study up on the factors that can help and hurt you. High levels of what is known as Lp(a), a genetic variation of plasma LDL is an important risk factor for developing fatty deposits in arteries. Scientists don’t completely understand exactly how Lp(a) contributes. They do know that lesions in artery walls contain ingredients that might interact with Lp(a)and together they lead to the buildup of fatty deposits.

Often times when people have heart disease, they also have high levels of triglycerides. Triglyceride is fat and it comes from food. Your body makes triglyceride. People with diabetes or who are obese usually have high triglycerides too. Normally people have triglyceride levels of less than 150 mg/dL. Levels of 150-199 are borderline high. If your triglyceride levels are 200 mg/dL to 499 mg/dL, you are at risk and might need treatment from a physician.

Conditions > Diseases and Conditions: Why Worry about High Cholesterol?