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Nov 29, 2022


Heart Health


Important Cholesterol Markers You Should Know About

  • Cholesterol is required for the production of bile, hormones, vitamin D, and enzymes.
  • Excess cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis—the build up of fats, cholesterol and other substances in arteries.
  • LDL, the 'bad cholesterol', causes plaque buildup in blood vessels.
    Healthy level is below 100.
  • HDL, the 'good cholesterol', removes LDL from the blood.
    Healthy level for men: higher than 40, for women: higher than 50.
  • Triglycerides are a type of fat and are released as energy.
    Healthy level is below 150.
  • Non-HDL is the number of total cholesterol minus HDL.
    Healthy level is below 130.

The CDC estimates that approximately 38% of Americans have unhealthy total cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dL or higher, but what does that mean?

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol functions as a structural component of cells, a precursor in the production of hormones, and is necessary for your liver to produce bile acids. Your body naturally produces cholesterol and it’s essential to have cholesterol for good health.

Cholesterol is also commonly characterized as a waxy substance that serves the specific function of promoting cell development and function. In order to make hormones, vitamin D, and enzymes, cholesterol is required.

2 origins of cholesterol

The liver and foods you consume: you produce all the necessary cholesterol in your liver. The remaining cholesterol in your body is obtained from animal-based foods, such as:

  • Dairy products
  • Meat
  • Poultry: chicken, turkey, and/or duck

When blood cholesterol levels are too high, fatty deposits can form inside blood vessels. Your likelihood of developing health issues like a heart attack or stroke may rise as a result.

What causes high cholesterol?

In excess, cholesterol can interact with other blood constituents to produce plaque. Your artery walls get coated with plaque, leading to a serious disease called atherosclerosis—the build up of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on the artery walls.

Additionally, an increased risk of cardiovascular disorders, including heart disease and stroke, is associated with high cholesterol due to the fact that fatty compounds, such as cholesterol and triglycerides, can accumulate on your artery walls, block blood vessels, and obstruct the proper circulation of blood and oxygen in your body. It's vital to get your cholesterol checked so you can determine your levels.

Important cholesterol markers

Since cholesterol cannot dissolve in the blood, it is transported in lipoproteins. The 3 major types of lipoproteins include the following:

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
  • LDL, otherwise referred to as the “bad cholesterol,” causes the buildup of plaque formation in your blood vessels.
  • LDL levels will rise as a result of a diet rich in saturated and trans fats.
  • A heart attack could result from too much plaque in your heart's arteries.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL)
  • HDL is otherwise referred to as the “good cholesterol” due to its ability to remove LDL from your blood.
  • Non-HDL is the discrepancy between HDL concentration and total cholesterol, which includes cholesterol in all lipoproteins.
  • Many studies have shown that non-HDL cholesterol is a stronger predictor of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD- defined as cholesterol plaque accumulation in your arteries) than LDL.
Triglycerides (TG)
  • TG is produced from the calories you consume, but you don’t immediately burn them off.
  • TG is also stored in your fat cells and is released as energy when required.
  • High levels of TG in your blood may lead to pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas).
Apolipoprotein B (apoB)
  • ApoB is a high-risk marker and a predictor of atherosclerosis development, which starts when an apoB particle gets stuck inside the vascular wall.

Classifications of cholesterol and triglycerides (mg/dl) include the following:

Normal Lower than 130
Above normal 130 – 159
Borderline high 160 – 189
High 190 – 219
Very high Higher than 220

Normal Lower than 100
Above normal 100 – 129
Borderline high 130 – 159
High 160 – 189
Very high Higher than 190

Low (Men) Lower than 40
Low (Women) Lower than 50

Normal Lower than 150
Borderline high 150 – 199
High 200 – 499
Very high Higher than 500

Risk factors for high cholesterol

  • Consuming a diet heavy in trans and saturated fats
  • Lifestyle elements, such as living a sedentary lifestyle, and being overweight or obese
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Age

Preventing high cholesterol

Lifestyle modifications including the following are effective in preventing the development of high cholesterol:

  • Decreasing stress
  • Exercising at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes
  • Maintaining a healthy diet as well as a healthy weight
  • Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet
  • Decrease excessive alcohol consumption
  • Quit smoking

Learn more about Managing Cholesterol with Diet, Exercise, or Medication

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