What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in your blood. It’s produced naturally in the liver. Everyone has cholesterol. We need it to stay healthy because every cell in our body uses it. Some of this cholesterol comes from the food we eat.
What is Good cholesterol?
The Good Cholesterol is having high cholesterol is when you have too much cholesterol in your blood. This can increase your risk of heart and circulatory diseases such as heart attack and stroke.
What are the types of cholesterol?
There are two main types of cholesterol, one good and the other bad. Having too much ‘bad’ cholesterol can cause problems with your health. Cholesterol is carried in your blood by proteins. When cholesterol and proteins combine, they’re called lipoproteins.
High Cholesterol = is called ‘good’ cholesterol. This is because it gets rid of the ‘bad’ cholesterol from your blood. It takes cholesterol that you don’t need to go back to the liver. The liver breaks it down so it can be passed out of your body.
Low Cholesterol = is called ‘bad’ cholesterol. This is because when there is too much of it, it can build up inside the walls of the blood vessels. This clogs them up causing narrowing of the arteries which increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
You may have also heard ‘bad’ cholesterol being. This was previously used as the main measure of bad cholesterol but we now know that other forms of low cholesterol are also harmful.
What causes high cholesterol?
Anyone can get high cholesterol, and it can be caused by many different things. Some things you can control like lifestyle habits, others you can’t. As long as you take care of the things you can control, you’ll help lower your risk.
Things that cause high cholesterol you can control:
- eating too much saturated fat
- not being active enough
- having too much body fat, especially around your middle.
Smoking can lead to high cholesterol levels, and the build-up of tar it causes in your arteries makes it easier for cholesterol to stick to your artery walls.
If you are overweight or have diabetes, you are at greater risk of having high cholesterol.
Things that cause high cholesterol you can’t control:
- getting older
- if you are male or female
- ethnic background
- Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH), a form of high cholesterol you are born with
- kidney or liver disease
- an underactive thyroid gland
What is Bad cholesterol?
If you have a Low Cholesterol this means that you have too much bad cholesterol in your blood. This extra bad cholesterol, along with other substances, forms plaque. The plaque builds up in your arteries; this is a condition called atherosclerosis.
Coronary artery disease happens when the plaque buildup in the arteries of your heart. It causes the arteries to become hardened and narrowed, which slows down or blocks the blood flow to your heart. Since your blood carries oxygen to your heart, this means that your heart may not be able to get enough oxygen. This can cause angina (chest pain), or if the blood flow is completely blocked, a heart attack.
How do I know what my Bad Cholesterol level is?
A blood test can measure your cholesterol levels, including bad cholesterol. When and how often you should get this test depends on your age, risk factors, and family history. The general recommendations are:
For people who are age 19 or younger:
- The first test should be between ages 9 to 11
- Children should have the test again every 5 years
- Some children may have this test starting at age 2 if there is a family history of high blood cholesterol, heart attack, or stroke
For people who are age 20 or older:
- Younger adults should have the test every 5 years
- Men ages 45 to 65 and women ages 55 to 65 should have it every 1 to 2 years
What can affect my Bad Cholesterol level?
Things that can affect your Low Cholesterol level include:
- Diet. Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat make your blood cholesterol level rise
- Weight. Being overweight tends to raise your bad Cholesterol level, lower your good cholesterol level, and increase your total cholesterol level
- Physical Activity. A lack of physical activity can lead to weight gain, which can raise your Bad Cholesterol level
- Smoking. Cigarette smoking lowers your Good cholesterol. Since HDL helps to remove Bad Cholesterol from your arteries, if you have less Good Cholesterol, that can contribute to you having a higher Bad Cholesterol level.
- Age and Gender. As women and men get older, their cholesterol levels rise. Before the age of menopause, women have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After the age of menopause, women’s Bad Cholesterol levels tend to rise.
- Genetics. Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High cholesterol can run in families. For example, familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is an inherited form of high blood cholesterol.
- Medicines. Certain medicines, including steroids, some blood pressure medicines, and HIV/AIDS medicines, can raise your Bad Cholesterol level.
- Other medical conditions. Diseases such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and HIV/AIDScan cause a higher Bad Cholesterol level.
- Race. Certain races may have an increased risk of high blood cholesterol. For example, African Americans typically have higher Good Cholesterol and Bad Cholesterol levels than whites.
How can I lower my Bad Cholesterol level?
There are two main ways to lower your Bad Cholesterol cholesterol:
- Therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC). TLC includes three parts:
- Heart-healthy eating. A heart-healthy eating plan limits the amount of saturated and trans fats that you eat. Examples of eating plans that can lower your cholesterol include the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet and the DASH eating plan.
- Weight Management. If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your LDL cholesterol.
- Physical Activity. Everyone should get regular physical activity (30 minutes on most, if not all, days).
- Drug Treatment. If lifestyle changes alone do not lower your cholesterol enough, you may also need to take medicines. There are several types of cholesterol-lowering drugs available, including statins. The medicines work in different ways and can have different side effects. Talk to your health care provider about which one is right for you. While you are taking medicine to lower your cholesterol, you should still continue with the lifestyle changes.
Some people with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) may receive a treatment called lipoprotein apheresis. This treatment uses a filtering machine to remove Bad Cholesterol cholesterol from the blood. Then the machine returns the rest of the blood back to the person.