Understanding high cholesterol .... the facts your doctor may not tell you.
Understanding high cholesterol will be straightforward once you know some basic facts about high cholesterol. For example, high cholesterol can be looked at as a relative term because what is considered high for one person may be normal for another. Moreover cholesterol itself is not actually that harmful, it is what happens to the cholesterol in your body that can be harmful.
There are many fates for cholesterol molecules and these fates depend on the type of cholesterol in question, as we discussed in the
section. In this section, we will be discussing the different cholesterol types and their respective fates. We will also discuss the process of understanding high cholesterol for different people and how this fits into heart disease for each.
Understanding high cholesterol- what is considered high.
High cholesterol varies based on several things, your existing cardiovascular disease, your family history of cardiovascular disease, and your other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. All these together are know as your total risk for a "cardiovascular event", like heart attack or stroke. If your total risk is low, your target cholesterol should equally be low and vice versa for high risk. Are you with me so far......?
Now once you know your risk level, most doctors will tell you it is your LDL cholesterol that is most important to watch........... It turns out....... the reality is a little more complex than that, but lets stick with that train of thought for now. It is a good place to start.
So lets say you have a low risk (no family history, no know heart disease) and you are 35 years old ...... your LDL cholesterol target would be less than 130 mg.dl. Conversely if you were 50 and had a moderate risk ( known coronary disease) you would want a target LDL of about 100 mg/dl.
As you can see, understanding high cholesterol involves understanding the person in mind. But it turns out that there are several different types of LDL cholesterol. Knowing the type of LDL you have will change your risk level significantly.
Understanding high cholesterol - the types involved.
To fully grasp and understand high cholesterol you must know the different types of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and the other types of cholesterol in between. Cholesterol particles as a whole are known as lipoproteins. These lipoproteins allow the body to transport fatty acids in your water soluble blood. The density refers to the density of protein the molecules have. For instance, HDL stands for high density lipoprotein because it is densely composed of protein. LDL is the opposite, being a low density lipoprotein composed of little protein and mostly fatty acids. Generally speaking the more fatty acids the lipoproteins have, the worse it is for you.
There are several other lipoprotein molecules that are important to understanding high cholesterol as well. VLDL and IDL are respectively very low density lipoprotein and intermediate density lipoprotein. Can you guess their level of risk based on their name.....?
Lipoprotein molecules also have apolipoproteins on them such as Lipoprotein(a) or (b). Lipoprotein (a) or Lp(a) is attached to lipoproteins like the LDL molecules discussed above. When LDL molecules have lots of this Lp(a) on them, the person carries increased risk similar to those with high amounts of LDL cholesterol particles themselves. When you get your cholesterol checked you may not be getting all these items checked. If you are in the high risk camp, it is highly recommended.
Now that you understand high cholesterol and its relation to the various types of cholesterol, lets look at how these different lipoproteins impact heart disease.
Understanding high cholesterol- the relation to heart disease.
To fully grasp and understand high cholesterol you must know how and why cholesterol can be detrimental to being with. From inside the arterial wall things look a bit different. Can you imagine it......?
The inside of your arteries are circular and tube like with the inside being lined with cells and blood of various content flowing past. Cholesterol circulates in the blood and interacts with the contents in the blood. Problems arise when free radicals in the blood cause the cholesterol to oxidize. Free radicals have more of an affinity to lipoproteins with high amounts of fatty acids in them (like LDL and VLDL). Once oxidized the LDL cholesterol is scavengered by white blood cells called Macrophages. These Macrophages consume the oxidized cholesterol to neutralize it and then transport it into the inner lining of the artery so that it cannot cause any further damage. Overtime when this happens it creates what is know as artherosclerosis.
The picture above depicts this process where the yellow fatty substance is jutting out toward the center of the artery. This process is know as atherosclerosis and when this process becomes a burden to the organs of your body, like the cardiovascular system, the heart, the kidneys, it is know as heart disease. Understanding high cholesterol and its relationship to your health can be tricky. I recommend you know what your current numbers are for LDL (and different size), HDL (and different sizes) , Lp(a), VLDL, and IDL, CRP, triglycerides and few others. Equally important is to know what your target numbers are for each. Come up with a clear plan on how to lower your numbers.
Check out high cholesterol natural solutions for some ways to lower cholesterol naturally.