Understanding Cholesterols and Levels in the Body
Cholesterol seems to have become something that is considered injurious to health by some people. There are those who only think about how it may cause cardiovascular issues when they see or hear the word mentioned. But does this mean there is nothing you can benefit from the substance? You need to read this article to the end to know more about cholesterol, especially if you think of it as more of a problem.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is an organic molecule present in all animal cells. You have it in all cells of your body. The substance, which is biosynthesized in cells, has a waxy or fat-like feel. It is mostly produced by hepatic cells and is the leading sterol, or modified steroid, that your body produces. You can also get the organic molecule from the food you eat.
Several important functions are attributed to cholesterol. It helps to maintain the structural integrity and fluidity of animal cell membranes. It eliminates the need for cell walls, thus enabling animal cells to change shape rapidly and allowing animals to move. It facilitates cell signaling, nerve coordination, and intracellular transport in cell membranes.
Besides helping to maintain cell structure, cholesterol also helps your body to digest foods properly. It is a precursor of bile acids in your intestine. The molecule assists your body in the production of vitamin D and steroid hormones, such as cortisol and aldosterone. It is also crucial for the production of sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen.
The substance recycles within the body. It is stored in the gall bladder when secreted by the liver. Roughly half of the total amount released is reabsorbed into the blood stream in the small intestine.
Cholesterol and Lipoproteins
This sterol moves around the body in small structures known as lipoproteins. The name points to the fact that these packages are made of both fat and proteins. Cholesterol does not mix with blood and water outside cells because of these.
There are several types of lipoproteins in the body. But the most notable ones, especially with regard to cholesterol, are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). These are the main reason the substance is described as both good and bad.
LDL – Also known as “bad” cholesterol, these lipoproteins are what usually paints a dreadful picture of this molecule. They tend to build up and block your arteries, thus hindering blood flow.
HDL – These lipoproteins, which are also referred to as “good” cholesterol, protects your heart. They help in moving the sterol from different parts of the body to the liver. From here, cholesterol is eliminated from the body.
The amount of cholesterol in the body is not fixed. It fluctuates. The foods you eat, for instance, may cause levels to rise. They can also help to regulate the amount of the substance in the body.
Generally, it is better to have lower amount of LDL cholesterol and a higher amount of the HDL alternative. Triglycerides levels are also usually assessed when measuring the amount of cholesterol in the body. These are fatty substances that can also build up in your blood to pose health risks.
Cholesterol levels in the body are usually expressed in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). Different levels in adults are described below, according to the guidelines of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute:
Normal – Having less than 100 mg/dl LDL cholesterol; 40 mg/dl or more HDL; less than 149 mg/dl triglycerides, and less than 200 mg/dl total cholesterol
Borderline – Having levels in the range 130-159 mg/dl for LDL; 150-199 for triglycerides; and 200-239 for total cholesterol
High – Having LDL of 160 mg/dl or higher; triglycerides of 200 mg/dl or higher, and total cholesterol of 240 mg/dl or higher
Your HDL levels are low for an adult when they drop below 40 mg/dl.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), below are recommended levels for children:
Normal – No more than 110 mg/dl of LDL cholesterol; at least 45 mg/dl of HDL; less than 75 mg/dl (up to 9 years) or 90 mg/dl (10-19 years) triglycerides, and no more than 170 mg/dl total cholesterol
Borderline – Levels in the range 110-129 mg/dl for LDL; 40-45 for HDL; 75-99 (0-9 years) or 90-129 (10-19 years) for triglycerides, and 170-199 for total cholesterol
High – LDL of 130 mg/dl or greater; triglycerides of 100 mg/dl (0-9) or 130 mg/dl (10-19) or higher, and total cholesterol of 200 mg/dl or greater
HDL cholesterol levels below 40 mg/dl is also low for children.
Experts advise to have your cholesterol levels checked roughly every five years, beginning from the age of 20. Parents need to take their children for assessment between the ages 9 and 12. This should be repeated when they are between 17 and 21. Those with family history of elevated cholesterol levels have to check amounts earlier than suggested.
High Blood Cholesterol
This condition describes high amount of cholesterol moving around in the blood. It is also known as hypercholesterolemia The parameters that point to its existence are as discussed in the previous section. When talking about high blood cholesterol, the main concerns are LDL and triglycerides. The higher the amount of HDL you have, the better.
Fatty foods are prominent causes of high blood cholesterol. Genetics also play a role in how like you are to have this problem. People who are overweight or obese are at increased risk of having elevated levels of the organic molecule. High blood cholesterol may also result from some medical conditions, including:
- Kidney or liver disease
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
The use of certain medications can cause your cholesterol levels to surge. Examples of these include anabolic steroids and corticosteroids.
This problem is a principal risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Cholesterol can build up in arteries to form plaques that hinders efficient blood flow. A person is said to have atherosclerosis when plaques develop in his or her arteries causing the blood vessels to become narrow. This leads to coronary heart disease. In turn, this can give rise to heart attacks.
High blood cholesterol is a scary condition in that it doesn’t usually show any symptom. You can only tell its presence after significant damage might have been done. This is a major reason it is suggested to check levels from time to time.
How to Control Your Cholesterol Levels
To keep your cholesterol in check, you have to work on those risk factors that you have some level of control over. These are principally your lifestyle choices, such as diet and level of activity. Certain changes must be made as regard these factors.
Anti Cholesterol Diet
You need to reduce the amount of harmful cholesterol in your diet. Foods with high amount of saturated fats should be avoided. These predispose you to cardiovascular issues. Examples include cheese, high-fat red meat, full-fat diary, margarine and baked goods.
You can replace these foods with those that provide fat that is friendly to your heart. Oily fish, such as salmon and tuna, are great sources for fat that help to lower bad cholesterol. Other foods that are known to help lower the amount of this substance include beans, whole grains, nuts, fiber-rich foods, and soy products.
Exercise To Lower Cholesterol
Regular exercise will greatly be beneficial in keeping the risks of bad cholesterol under control. Being active helps to guard against overweight and obesity. Activity also causes your HDL levels to rise and this you know is a good thing. Exercising for about 30 minutes or an hour every day can go a long way in protecting your health.
Cholesterol Lowering Drugs
The first line of intervention for high blood cholesterol are usually a strict, low-fat diet combined with regular exercise. But your doctor may decide you are a candidate for drug treatment. This is more likely to be the case if he thinks you have a greater risk of heart attack.
Examples of cholesterol lowering or hypolipidemic agents include statins, cholesterol absorption inhibitors, fibrates, and nicotinic acid derivatives. Also referred to as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, statins are the most widely used drugs for controlling levels. There are studies confirming that these can reduce risks of cardiovascular disease.
It should be noted that the use of these drugs may come with side effects. There are reports that statins can give rise to myopathy, a condition of muscle tissues. They may also increase your likelihood of having diabetes. This probably explains why you can only get them on prescription in the United States.
Cholesterol and HGH
It has been suggested that you may get help for regulating your cholesterol levels through human growth hormone. Decline in the levels of this natural substance produced by the pituitary gland appears to increase the risk of having higher amount of LDL. People with low HGH levels often have elevated body fat and cholesterol levels. This makes some think that growth hormone is a factor in this problem.
However, evidence from research is rather mixed. The use of recombinant HGH to raise the levels of the substance in some patients helped to reduce the amount of both bad and total cholesterol. It was also found to lessen the amount of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Some researchers, on the other hand, noted that growth hormone may in fact raise your risk of coronary heart disease. It caused amount of lipoprotein(a) to increase in some research. This lipoprotein subclass, just like LDL, can cause plaques to build up in your arteries.
You will be doing yourself a whole lot of good by keeping your cholesterol levels in check. Focus should be on keeping down the amount of LDL, triglycerides and total cholesterol. This will help to guard against buildup of plaques and reduce risks of rupture and blood clots. A healthy diet low in saturated fats and regular exercise will be crucial. Talk to your doctor first if you are considering medications or HGH.