Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Wisdom Wednesday: What You Need to Know About Cholesterol
Cholesterol plays a vital role in your health, so it’s important to understand the different types of cholesterol and how to influence their levels, a heart specialist says.
‘Good cholesterol – high density lipoprotein (HDL) – recycles cholesterol and fat in the body,” said Dr. Alex Garton. He’s a noninvasive cardiologist from Pinnacle Health Cardiovascular Institute, based in central Pennsylvania.
“What we call bad cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), is ‘bad’ because any leftover LDL is deposited into the blood vessels, increasing the risk of vascular disease. HDL can help prevent this by ‘recycling’ excess amounts of bad cholesterol,” Garton explained in an institute news release.
Total cholesterol can be deceiving, so it’s important to know the levels of both your bad cholesterol and good cholesterol.
LDL levels should generally be kept below 130 mg/dL of blood. But a level of 100 mg/dL is considered “optimal.” The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says.
HDL levels should be above 40 mg/dL, the NHLBI says. And, levels above 60 mg/dL are even better.
But cholesterol levels are only part of the overall picture, Garton said.
“Smoking cigarettes, having high blood pressure or having a family history of early heart disease can also increase a patient’s cholesterol-related risks. These factors actually lower the LDL cholesterol number that signifies a patient is at risk for heart disease,” he said.
Other factors can increase the risk from lower LDL levels. These include diabetes, obesity and a family history of unhealthy cholesterol levels, Garton said.
There is so much misleading information here I don’t have room to take it point-by-point. Let me give you real facts rather than ‘alternative’ facts.
LDL cholesterol is manufactured in the liver and released into the blood stream as a building block to form hormones. All animal life forms, including humans need cholesterol. LDL is taken into the cells of the body where additional chemicals are added. This changes the LDL into an HDL (yes, the ‘bad’ cholesterol becomes the ‘good’ cholesterol). Some of the HDL remains in the cells and the remainder is released into the blood stream, returns to the liver and is converted back into LDL. It is a cycle with neither form being ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but both are necessary.
Excess LDL is secreted from liver in response to inflammation in the body. If that inflammation is in the arterial wall, homocysteine will attach to the LDL and create a thin patch over the site of inflammation. We measure that inflammation with a blood test called C-reactive protein (CRP). If this process is exaggerated, then atherosclerosis ensues creating cardiovascular disease.
The Bottom Line:
Lowering LDL cholesterol is just a side effect of statin drug therapy. Reducing inflammation is the key. It’s not enough to measure the LDL and HDL levels. You should also have your CRP and homocysteine levels checked. If there is a family history of heart disease also check the L(p)a to see if a genetic factor exists.