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Cholesterol, High

Overview :

Cholesterol is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of medicine, since it has both a good side and bad side. It is necessary to digest fats from food, make hormones, build cell walls, and participate in other processes for maintaining a healthy body. When people talk about cholesterol as a medical problem, they usually are referring to high cholesterol. This can be somewhat misleading, since there are four components to cholesterol. These are:

  • LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol
  • HDL, the so-called good cholesterol
  • triglycerides, a blood fat lipid that increases the risk for heart disease
  • total cholesterol

High LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is a major contributing factor of heart disease. The cholesterol forms plaque in the heart's blood vessels, which restricts or blocks the supply of blood to the heart, and causes a condition called atherosclerosis. This can lead to a "heart attack," resulting in damage to the heart and possibly death. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that 90 million American adults, roughly half the adult population, have elevated cholesterol levels.

The population as a whole is at some risk of developing high LDL cholesterol in their lifetimes. Specific risk factors include a family history of high cholesterol, obesity, heart attack or stroke, alcoholism, and lack of regular exercise. The chances of developing high cholesterol increase after the age of 45. One of the primary causes of high LDL cholesterol is too much fat or sugar in the diet, a problem especially true in the United States. Cholesterol also is produced naturally in the liver and overproduction may occur even in people who limit their intake of high cholesterol food. Low HDL and high triglyceride levels are also risk factors for atherosclerosis.

Types Of Cholesterol
Types Levels
Total Cholesterol:
Desirable <200
Borderline 200 to 240
Undesirable >240
HDL cholesterol:
Desirable >45
Borderline 35 to 45
Undesirable <35
LDL cholesterol:
Desirable <130
Borderline 130 to 160
Undesirable >160
Ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol:
Desirable <3
Borderline 3 to 4
Undesirable >4

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