Cholesterol Overview -

  Page Summary




CLOSE WINDOW strives to be a complete resource for complete and accurate information about your Blood. For certain, cholesterol is at the top of the list of concerns about Blood related problems in both men and women. As with HIV/AIDS, there are, at your library and on the internet, excellent resources available on the subject of cholesterol. Our mission is to provide information that may be more difficult to find or to understand. We have, however, included here a quality summary overview of cholesterol, how it affects us, and some of the important things to look for as you read more about the subject.

Definition || LDL || HDL || Normal Range/Reference || Ideal Cholesterol Levels
Rules of Thumb || High Risk || Types of Cholesterol || Causes of Problems
Highest Risk Watch Factor List || Other Fats || Prevention Summary || Links

Cholesterol is a lipid. Lipids are fats. BLOOD CHOLESTEROL, Lipids are transported through the Bloodstream in 'packages,' and attach themselves to proteins in our Bloodstream, resulting in what are called 'lipoproteins.' Some cholesterols are good, such as the HDL’s (high density lipoproteins). Some are bad, such as the LDL’s (low density lipoproteins).

This medical terminology will help us have a better understanding of the many cholesterol numbers and references about which we hear almost every day. They will help to give us a sense of our safe range numbers, how to lower the bad numbers and raise the good cholesterol numbers.

LDLs are bad. These types of cholesterol are the ones responsible for clogging up and blocking arteries, resulting in hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which is an accumulation of fat buildup inside the walls of our arteries.

HDLs are good. These cholesterols prevent fat buildup in arterial walls, carrying it away from the arteries to the liver where it is processed and eliminated. These good cholesterols help certain parts of our bodies, such as tissues and hormones to function normally. They are also used to make bile, which helps the body process the food that we eat. Bile is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder.

When our bodies produce the cholesterol, it is known as endogenous cholesterol. But when we eat the cholesterol as a component part of our diet, that cholesterol is referred to as exogenous cholesterol.

Vegetarians have low LDL; exercise, vitamin C, and niacin elevate good HDL.

Normal Range/Reference
It is generally considered as healthier to have a total cholesterol range/reference reading of less than 200 mg/dL, that is combining both HDL and LDL numbers. The higher the HDL fraction the better.

If our HDL level is 80 mg/dL and the LDL level is 130 mg/dL, we are considered to be "low risk" for heart disease as we define it today. As our HDL level decreases, our potential for heart problems is said to intensify, even if the total is on the low side. An HDL level below 35 mg/dL is considered to be a dangerous level. An HDL level of 60 mg/dL or higher is considered protective of our circulatory system.

The higher the total Blood cholesterol level, the lower the HDL number will indicate that a potentially high risk for developing coronary heart disease is present. This number will also provide a signal that changes must be made in one’s lifestyle.

Rule of thumb - The ideal total Blood cholesterol level is anything below 200. This does not, however, take into consideration the age and sex of the person and some other relevant factors. A 20-year-old with a total Blood cholesterol level of 190, who has family members who have died of heart disease at an early age, may still be at risk and should have frequent, physician supervised tests. On the other hand, a healthy 70-year-old male with a total Blood cholesterol level of 240, or greater, has already demonstrated his ability to live normally, or not, if there have been problems with clogged arteries.

A "rule of thumb" way of looking at our cholesterol numbers is to divide the total cholesterol level by HDL cholesterol level. A ratio greater than 4.5 indicates a high heart disease risk, while a ratio of 3.5 and lower is considered optimal.

HIGH RISK - Total (combined) cholesterol of 240 mg/dL and above.
HIGH RISK - LDL of 160 mg/dL and above.

Serum Lipids, Cholesterol, Triglycerides, VLDL, LDL, HDL, Chylomicrons and, Serum Lipoproteins

Causes of Cholesterol Problems
Overindulgence in LDL cholesterol-containing foods is dangerous, causing elevated Blood cholesterol and triglycerides. These fats, in most people, produce plaque-filled arteries that impede flow of Blood to vital body parts including the heart. High cholesterol levels are the major cause of heart disease, fatty deposits in the arteries (arteriosclerosis), and cerebrovascular and cardiac insufficiency. Also, high cholesterol is often cited as a major cause of high Blood pressure (hypertension.)

Cholesterol is a yellowish, wax-like substance closely related to fat and is absorbed through the digestive tract, as we eat animal products. The body produces about 1000 mg. of cholesterol per day, while the average American diet supplies another 500 to 900 mg. This amount is two to three times more than the average adult should consume. Only 300 mg. per day should be eaten. Even if there were no cholesterol in our diet, our liver, and to a lesser extent the body cells, would produce enough cholesterol for all of our normal body functions.

Highest Risk Factor Watch List 

drop-sm-1.gif (866 bytes)clear.gif (807 bytes) Age: Male - over 45 years
drop-sm-1.gif (866 bytes) Age: Female - over 55 years or premature menopause without
estrogen replacement.
drop-sm-1.gif (866 bytes) Family history of early coronary heart disease, certain myocardial infarction or sudden death before age 55 in father or male first degree relative, or before age 65 in mother or female first degree relative.
drop-sm-1.gif (866 bytes) Current cigarette smoking, and/or a long history of cigarette smoking
drop-sm-1.gif (866 bytes) Hypertension of more than 140/90 mmHg or on antihypertensive medicines
drop-sm-1.gif (866 bytes) Low HDL cholesterol of less than 35 mg/dl
drop-sm-1.gif (866 bytes) Diabetes mellitus
drop-sm-1.gif (866 bytes) High HDL cholesterol of more than 60 mg/dl

Other factors that show up in those with high Blood cholesterol are: coffee drinking; a diet high in saturated fatty acids; a lack of proper exercise; excessive emotional stress; obesity; sugar - high intake of sucrose or other foods that become sugars.

Other Fats that Affect our Health
Saturated Fats - Fats that are solid at room temperature. They generally come from an animal source, and include butter, lard and suet. Cream contains saturated fat, but because it also contains milk it remains liquid (on the label you can see how much fat it contains). Coconut oil is, of course, from a plant source, but still hardens at room temperature. Palm oil is also saturated and is widely used in the manufacture of pastries, candy items, cakes and biscuits. Remember to always watch for this.

Monounsaturated Fats - These fats are the preferred choice because they tend to lower, or at least are thought not to contribute to a bad Blood cholesterol level. The most commonly available monounsaturated oils are avocado oil, canola oil and olive oil, which are high in HDLs. Tests carried out on people from the Mediterranean countries consistently indicate that the use of monounsaturated oils actually reduces the amount of cholesterol in the Blood. It is also believed that the increased HDLs are able to clean excess cholesterol from the Blood vessels.

Polyunsaturated Fats - Fats that are found in most nut, seed and vegetable oils. Traditionally they have been combined with dairy foods to make margarine and cooking oils. It was originally thought this would be a healthier alternative to butter and other saturated fats, but recent findings contradict this. The very process used to make margarine (beating the oil) actually saturates it.

Prevention Summary

clear.gif (807 bytes) clear.gif (807 bytes)
Check -! Select the foods that you eat carefully and consume foods sensibly
Check -! Have your Blood tested annually; watch your cholesterol
Check -! Know your family history of heart disease and tell your doctor the facts

Link - Links Link -

Live Healthier, Live Longer - Cholesterol tutorial from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Cholesterol - American Heart Association - has great links.

So You Have High Blood Cholesterol - Excellent presentation, in a short and easily understood book format, from National Institutes of Health.

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   last updated 03/29/2013