Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance needed for the body to function normally. When there is too much cholesterol in your body, it is deposited in arteries, including buy modafinil uk next day delivery those of the heart, which can lead to narrowing of the arteries and to heart disease.
Cholesterol is carried in the blood particles called lipoproteins. These particles are made up of cholesterol on the inside and protein on the outside. Two kinds of lipoproteins are:
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, is the major type of lipoprotein that carries cholesterol in the bloodstream to the body. This is the type that can lead to a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries and lead to heart disease.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL) or “good” cholesterol, carry cholesterol back to the liver to remove it from the body. Higher levels of HDL are considered good.
According to the National Cholesterol Education Project (NCEP), desirable or optimal cholesterol levels for adults with or without existing heart disease are:
- Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL is considered desirable, anything above 240 mg/dL is deemed to be high.
- Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol): less than 100 mg/dL is considered optimal while between 100 mg/dL and 129 mg/dL is considered near or above optimal.
- High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (“good” cholesterol): between 40 mg/dL and 60 mg/dL.
- Triglycerides: less than 150 mg/dL.
- Health Risks of High Cholesterol
- Over 106.7 million American adults ages 20 and over have total blood cholesterol values of 200 mg/dL and higher, of these 37.2 million American adults have levels of 240 or above.
High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. About 16 percent of adult Americans, 20 years and older, have high blood cholesterol (200 mg/dL or more total cholesterol). The average blood cholesterol level in adult Americans is about 203 mg/dL.
An excess of either total or LDL cholesterol in the blood is a risk for heart disease and atherosclerosis. Most of the excess cholesterol comes from diet. Cholesterol can build up on the artery walls of your body. This buildup is called plaque. Over time, plaque can cause the arteries to become narrow, which is called atherosclerosis. As a result, less oxygen-rich blood can pass through. When the arteries that carry blood to the heart are affected, coronary artery disease can result. A heart attack occurs when a coronary artery becomes completely blocked or a plaque ruptures and a clot forms.
High blood cholesterol itself does not cause symptoms, so many people may not know that their cholesterol level is too high. Simple blood tests can be done to check your total, LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol levels and other types of fats in the blood (such as triglycerides).
Factors that Affect Cholesterol Levels
A number of factors can affect the cholesterol levels in your blood. These include the following:
- Diet. Certain foods have types of fat that raise your cholesterol level. These types of fats include saturated fat, trans fatty acids or trans fats, and dietary cholesterol. Saturated fats come largely from animal fat in the diet, but also some vegetable oils such as palm oil.
- Weight. Being overweight tends to increase LDL cholesterol levels, lowers HDL cholesterol levels, and increases total cholesterol levels.
- Physical Inactivity. Lack of regular physical activity can lead to weight gain, which could raise your LDL cholesterol level.
- Heredity. High blood cholesterol can run in families. An inherited genetic condition results in very high LDL cholesterol levels. This condition is called familial hypercholesterolemia.
- Age and Sex. As people get older, their LDL cholesterol levels tend to rise. Men tend to have lower HDL cholesterol levels than women. Younger women tend to have lower LDL cholesterol levels than men, but higher levels at older ages (after 55 years of age).
Lifestyle Steps for Controlling Cholesterol
An adult can help control their cholesterol levels by taking the following lifestyle steps:
- Maintain a Healthy Diet. An overall healthy diet can help to maintain normal blood cholesterol levels. Saturated fat, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol tend to raise blood cholesterol levels. Other types of fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help to lower blood cholesterol levels. Getting enough soluble fiber in the diet can also help to lower cholesterol.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight. Being overweight or obese can raise your bad cholesterol levels. Losing weight can help you lower your blood cholesterol levels. Healthy weight status in adults is usually assessed by using weight and height to compute a number called the “body mass index” (BMI).
- Be Active. Physical activity can help to maintain a healthy weight and lower blood cholesterol levels. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-level physical activities for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. Always consult your health care provider before beginning a new exercise program.
- Avoid Tobacco. Smoking injures blood vessels and speeds up the process of hardening of the arteries.
- Medications. If you are found to have high blood cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe a medication in addition to lifestyle changes, to help bring it under control. The primary focus of treatment is to get LDL cholesterol under control. Your treatment plan and goal will depend on your LDL cholesterol level and your level of risk for heart disease and stroke. Your risk for heart disease and stroke will be based on whether you also have other risk factors and may include your blood pressure level or high blood pressure treatment, smoking status, age, HDL cholesterol level, family history of early heart disease, and existing cardiovascular disease or diabetes. People with existing cardiovascular disease or diabetes are considered high risk.