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High Cholesterol
High Cholesterol
Dr. Pham Hoang Trung

The National Cholesterol Education Program has set the “safe” level of total serum cholesterol (including both LDL and HDL) at milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl).  A reading above 200 indicates an increased potential for developing cardiovascular problems.  A level of 200 to 239 is borderline, and those with levels over 240 are at high risk of getting cardiovascular diseases.

High blood cholesterolwill narrow the artery diameter since fat forms plaque on the inside walls of arteries, which prevents blood circulation into brain, kidneys, sexual organs, extremities and heart. High cholesterolis the main cause of having heart diseases. High cholesterol is also the cause related to another diseases as gallstones, impotence, mental disorder and high blood pressure. Colon polyps and cancer, especially prostate and breast cancer are known to be a result of high cholesterol. Despite high cholesterol is not good for your heath but in fact cholesterol is needed to build up cell membrane, hormones and helping in the process of digestion.

Despite American Heart Association recommends the foods we eat daily only need around 300 mg or less, but if we eat foods absolutely having no cholesterol, we’re still fine because our body can make enough cholesterol needed to use.  About 80 percent of total body cholesterol is manufactured in the liver, while 20 percent comes from dietary sources. Cholesterol travels from the liver through the bloodstream to the various organs of the body by means of a special type of protein molecules called lipoproteins. The organ cells receive enough needed cholesterol, and any excess remains in the bloodstream until other lipoproteins pick them up for transport back to the liver.

There are two main types of lipoproteins:

  • Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are often referred to as “bad cholesterol”.
  • High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are often referred to as “good cholesterol”.

An analysis of the function of each will explain why.  Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are heavily carried cholesterol, because they are the molecules that transport cholesterol from the liver to all the cells of the body. On the other hand,high-density lipoproteins (HDL), circulate in the bloodstream in order to remove excess cholesterol from the bloodstream and then return it to the liver to store.If everything is functioning as it should, this system remains in balance.

However, if there is too much cholesterol for the HDL to pick up promptly, or if there are not enough HDL to do the job, high blood cholesterol will occur. At that time cholesterol can form plaque that sticks to artery inner walls to make it narrow which in turn prevent or block the circulation and as result may eventually cause cardiovascular problems such as heart attack. Or too much LDL has higher risk to get heart attack too.

If our cholesterol level is 200, an average HDL level of 80 and LDL level of 120, we have lower risk of getting heart problems. In summary if HDL level is high and LDL level is low, it’s good for us; and if HDL level is low and LDL level is high, we have higher risk of getting cardiovascular diseases.

Anyone in the borderline category (200 - 239)should follow a diet designed to lower cholesteroland to have a blood test at least once a year to see if cholesterol level goes down.

People with blood cholesterol level over 240 need further evaluation and should adopt an aggressive cholesterol-lowering diet.  Other therapies, such as weight reduction and exercise, are added if needed.If diet, weight reduction and exercise fail to lower cholesterol sufficiently, the patient is recommended to take cholesterol-lowering drugs in addition to the diet and exercise treatment regimen.

There are a number of cholesterol-lowering drugs on the market. Available by prescription only, these tend to be costly and they can have serious effects.


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