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What is Cholesterol and facts you should know about Cholesterol

Updated on April 20, 2016
Venkatachari M profile image

Venkat passed through lots of ups and downs in life with frequent health issues of family members ,gained much experience in tackling them.

Why cholesterol levels are so important

Health is the most important factor of your life. You can enjoy life and achieve your goals only if you are healthy. If you are sick and dull, nothing can be achieved. So, a little bit knowledge of everything that undergoes inside your body and some tips for maintaining a healthy body will be of much help in keeping yourself fit and healthy.

Maintenance of good cholesterol levels in your body is one such primary requirement which you should be aware of. If the levels of cholesterol are out of desirable limits and cross boundaries, you can face many problems of disorder in your blood circulation leading to heart ailments and heart attack.

I, personally, suffer from some disorder in my cholesterol as per my recent lipid profile which shows that I have exceeded the desirable limit and reached the border line also. So, I am getting treatment for it and am also researching on this subject for keeping control over my cholesterol levels with some knowledge and self-help.

So, naturally, I thought of sharing this knowledge with you also. The result is this article.

Images of cholesterol

Source
Source

What is Cholesterol?

You may be wondering what this 'cholesterol' word refers to. Cholesterol is a sticky and waxy substance similar to fat that is found in blood cells of our body. Its appearance is like white crystalline powder. It is a kind of lipid molecule(oily and sticky) and organic molecule produced by our body. Cholesterol is required in our body to produce hormones and other substances that help digestion. It is also required for our cell membrane buildup and maintenance. So, this required quantity of cholesterol is automatically produced in our body. But, in addition to this quantum of our body's own produced cholesterol, we are consuming many foodstuffs containing cholesterol which may abnormally increase the cholesterol levels in our body. This excessive levels of cholesterol will block the free flow of blood by forming plaque and blood clots and thus create many problems including heart attack.

Cholesterol can not mix with blood. So it is to be carried through our bloodstream with the help of some carriers known as lipoproteins. These lipoproteins are made up of fat and proteins. Lipoprotein is a combination of lipid and protein. So lipoprotein is a structure whose outer surface is of proteins and inner structure is made up of fatty acids. Cholesterol travels through these lipoproteins from heart to other parts and back to the heart.

Two major types of Cholesterol carriers (Lipoproteins)

There are two major types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol to and from cells in your body.

1) LDL (or bad) Cholesterol: This is Low-Density Lipoprotein cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is considered as bad cholesterol because it contributes to plaque formation which is a thick substance that gets deposited on the artery walls and thereby hinders the blood flow. It will result in the formation of blood clots.

2) HDL (or good) Cholesterol: This is High-Density Lipoprotein cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is considered as good cholesterol because it helps in removing the LDL cholesterol from your body. It acts as a cleaner by moving the bad cholesterol away from your arteries and other parts of the body to your liver. The liver will then remove it from the body.

Other components of Cholesterol

Besides above two components of LDL and HDL lipoproteins, there are two more components which constitute and make up the total cholesterol. They are VLDL lipoproteins and Triglycerides.

VLDL lipoproteins are Very Low-Density Lipoproteins which are dangerous as they cause more plaque formation when high in number. Because of their very low density, they easily get stick to the artery walls and cell membranes thereby forming plaque. So it is very important for you to know about the levels of these VLDL lipoproteins which are normally not shown in your general cholesterol reports.

Triglycerides are fat substances which are also bad for your health when high in quantity. These triglycerides are used for storage of excess energy produced from our diet. But the excessive quantity of these triglycerides hinders the blood flow by plaque formation.

High Blood Cholesterol affected arteries & plaque

Images showing normal artery on left top,plaque formation on right side image and narrowing of arteries on left bottom.
Images showing normal artery on left top,plaque formation on right side image and narrowing of arteries on left bottom. | Source

Know your Total Cholesterol composition

Always try to ask for the total cholesterol reports from your diagnostics.

Generally, when you ask for your cholesterol report, they will diagnose only the HDL and LDL lipoproteins and give you the report mentioning your total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and Triglycerides only. They do not mention your VLDL cholesterol in the report which is very important for you in knowing the accurate condition of your heart and arteries. So ask for it also in the beginning itself.

Your total cholesterol consists of the totalled measurements of your LDL + HDL cholesterol levels + one-fifth of your total Triglycerides. So, they try to skip VLDL lipoprotein measurements in the diagnosis. But, as it is a very important and most sensitive determinant of your heart condition, always ask for VLDL report also.

Desirable levels of Cholesterol

Cholesterol specification
Desirable Ranges
 
Total Cholesterol
70 to 199 mg/dl
Border line 200- 239 mg/dl
HDL Cholesterol
Above 40 mg/dl
Risk factor if below 40 mg/dl
LDL Cholesterol
Below 130 mg/dl
Border line 130- 159 mg/dl
VLDL Cholesterol
6 to 38 mg/dl
 
Triglycerides
Below 150 mg/dl
Border line 150- 199 mg/dl
The ranges are based on actual test reports conducted and also according to the ranges given in National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute website NIH of US Government.

How to detect high blood cholesterol?

Normally it is not known to you whether you are suffering from Cholesterol problems that may land you in danger because there are no signs and symptoms of cholesterol. So the only way that you can know about high blood cholesterol levels is by having your cholesterol test done. If your LDL or VLDL levels are high then you are having problems.

  • I used to have some symptoms like burning sensation on my back, some uneasy tightness feeling in my chest, and a kind of dizziness while I stand up after sitting on the floor for some time or stooping down. These can be associated with both high BP and cholesterol also.

It is better to get your cholesterol levels tested at intervals of each 5 years or even at one or two-year breaks beginning from your adulthood itself for being on a safer side and especially if you are above 40s. This report will tell you if you are suffering from high cholesterol levels. Especially VLDL cholesterol and Triglyceride levels are more important for you to protect from heart problems and other complications.

Sample of cholesterol test report

cholesterol report with high levels of VLDL and Triglycerides earmarked with a pen
cholesterol report with high levels of VLDL and Triglycerides earmarked with a pen | Source
Fibre rich and healthy fruits
Fibre rich and healthy fruits | Source
Fibre rich vegetables (legumes)
Fibre rich vegetables (legumes) | Source

Cholesterol risk factors

How to deal with Cholesterol and manage desirable levels

  • The first thing to do is to get your lipid profile. For this, you need to provide your blood sample to the diagnostic lab without eating or drinking anything in the morning. He will take the sample and provide your lipid profile after 8 to 12 hours.
  • Ask for a complete report revealing all the five levels of cholesterol as mentioned in the above table.
  • If the levels are within desirable ranges, you need not worry. If they are above or below the desirable ranges, then you must consult your Doctor and take his advice and prescriptions. Especially, your LDL, VLDL, and Triglyceride levels should be within desirable range.
  • Take medications and treatment as per Doctor's advice. My doctor prescribed a medicine to be consumed by me once daily for a long period.
  • Even if your Doctor may not prescribe any control in eating habits, it is better to take your own precautions if you are at the borderline of desirable limits as per the lipid profile.
  • Control your intake of food containing fats and cholesterol and consume more of fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes and coarse grains.
  • Reduce salt intake also as it contains sodium.
  • Have daily physical exercise and walking.
  • Sometimes, cholesterol disorder can be hereditary. So consult your Doctor and take his help.
  • High Blood Pressure, obesity and old age are also causes of cholesterol disorders. So persons with these symptoms should be in regular contact with doctors and should take all precautions.
  • Tensions can create high blood pressure and thereby lead to cholesterol problems. So try to be cool and happy always.
  • Cigarette smoking and alcohol also increase your cholesterol. So control these habits and have your regular check-ups.
  • There is TLC lifestyle program (comprising of TLC Diet, Weight management, and Physical activity) recommended by National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute which can be viewed by you at the nhlbi.nih.gov website link given below under references.
  • Some new testing devices are available at medical camps or clinics which offer instant reports by applying two drops of blood from your finger directly on the testing strip just like you do sugar tests. So you can have the levels checked at each visit to your doctor instantly and get correct medications. The below image shows this type of spontaneously tested report.

Recent cholesterol report showing improvement

A quick test report obtained with new testing device at a camp recently after some treatment
A quick test report obtained with new testing device at a camp recently after some treatment | Source

What is your opinion

Do you think it better to have regular checkups for cholesterol?

See results

New Drugs being considered for Cholesterol patients

U.S. Doctors are considering prescription of some new drugs of statin for using in treatment of high blood cholesterol patients as per this below-linked news article published in Washington Post dated 09/06/2015 at this link

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2015/06/08/could-these-new-cholesterol-drugs-save-many-americans-from-heart-attacks/?wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1

Keep regular vigilance on your cholesterol levels and get timely medications along with precautions. Keep fit and healthy and enjoy your life.

Guidelines for Cholesterol treatment

References

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbc

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/Good-vs-Bad-Cholesterol_UCM_305561_Article.jsp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cholesterol

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    • Venkatachari M profile image
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      Venkatachari M 13 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you, Rangan, for your visit and the nice comment.

    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 13 months ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      A well written hub. Thanks for sharing.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 22 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thanks for the visit and feedback, Sanjay.

      Home remedies are available. But they need to be taken at very early stages, as they are very time taking treatments.

      The best we can do is to concentrate on healthy food habits and exercises since adulthood itself to keep ourselves away from all diseases.

    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

      Sanjay Sharma 22 months ago from Mandi (HP) India

      Thanks for the information. There are certain home remedies consisting of certain herbs which control the levels of bad cholesterol.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you Marie, for your frequent visits to my hubs and your nice, encouraging comments. I will be most happy if my writings are of use to people.

    • MarieLB profile image

      Marie L B 2 years ago from Yamba

      As per usual Venkatachari M, you give a detailed, well rounded report. Very Interesting Indeed! I am so glad I read it. I have learnt much that is useful and important.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you, Dora. Thanks for your visit, a nice comment and good wishes.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Voted Up, Useful and Interesting. You answered some questions I have wanted to ask about the HDL and LDL. Thanks and may your condition improve!

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you, Jo Alexis, for your visit and a nice comment.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Excellent article, this is important information everyone needs to have. Well presented and user friendly. Nicely don.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thanks, Romanian, for your visit and comment. It's important that you should maintain more of HDL cholesterol and less of LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol level (including one-fifth of triglycerides) should be within 200.

    • Romanian profile image

      Nicu 2 years ago from Oradea, Romania

      This is very useful, now I understand why it's important to have a low cholesterol level in my body.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you, Buildreps. Yes, there are two kinds, actually four elements of your total cholesterol. Your LDL consists of VLDL levels. And total cholesterol consists of HDL, LDL and one-fifth of Triglycerides. So, it is a very complex compound. Vegetables and fruits are very good if you control other things like fat rich foods including diary products, meat food and smoking, etc.

      Thanks for your visit and nice comment.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you, Bill Holland. I thought of mentioning the fact about Americans being high prone to Cholesterol. But, then, I restrained myself from doing so. But, now, you have come out with this fact. So, let us be careful.

      Thank you once again for your visit and nice comment.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you, Eric for your visit and comment. Glad to see that you got it checked and are fine. I will have it regularly checked from now onwards.

    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 2 years ago from Europe

      This is a very interesting and informative Hub, with dense information. I never knew for example there were two kinds of cholesterol. Happily my BP and cholesterol is low. I assume that vegetables and fruits boost the levels of good cholesterol?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I don't know about the rest of the world, but I would be that Americans are among the leaders of nations with high cholesterol. You have written a very succinct and clear summary of the important information. Nicely done.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Fantastic article you really laid this subject out nicely and made it easy to understand. I just recently got checked and while it was all good it sure made me feel better getting it done.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you Chitra, for your visit and leaving a nice comment. It is true that you can control a lot by managing lifestyle habits.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very useful and informative hub about cholesterol, shared by you.

      It is important to have regular check ups, to understand whether one is having the desired levels of LDL and HDL or not. And the good news is that it can be managed by lifestyle changes and correct eating habits.

      Well researched and well presented hub. Thanks and voted up!

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Hi, Devika. Nice to see you as first visitor and also comment on this hub. Thank you for this.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Informative and interesting. Eating correctly can prevent one from many health issues including Cholesterol. You described in detail.

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