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Cholesterol Levels: Good and Bad – What’s it All Mean?

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The area of cardiovascular health that confuses people the most are their cholesterol levels.  What is low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and why is it bad?  What is high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and why is it good?  In fact, what is cholesterol to begin with?  And, can only pharmaceuticals make a difference in your cholesterol levels or are there natural ways to make favorable changes?  This article will provide you with answers to these questions.

The Glue That Holds You Together!
Cholesterol is a fascinating molecule because it is used widely throughout your body.  To begin with cholesterol is required to build and maintain all cell membranes.  Without cholesterol you would be a large puddle on the floor!  In addition to providing this structural purpose, cholesterol also plays an important role in:

As you can see from this list, not only does cholesterol hold you together but it also plays a key role in your nervous system, digestive system, immune system, cardiovascular system, endocrine system, and overall metabolism. 

Most of your cholesterol comes from your diet or is recycled within your body when bile is not eliminated through your digestive tract.  Only a very small portion of your cholesterol is actually synthesized by your body.

What’s Good – What’s Bad Cholesterol?
Your cholesterol is transported by your blood stream.  Because it cannot dissolve in your blood it must be transported to and from the cells by carriers called lipoproteins.  There are two basic carriers called low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). 

Your HDL cholesterol is called “Good” because it helps to keep the walls of the blood vessels clean by removing excess cholesterol and carrying it back to the liver for additional processing.  Your HDL cholesterol helps to protect the endothelial cells from being damaged by LDL oxidation.  This is critical because your endothelial cells play a large role in both cardiovascular and sexual health.

Your LDL cholesterol is called “Bad” because it can adhere to the inner lining of your arteries and arterioles.  This can slowly build up over time.  LDL cholesterol is also very sensitive to oxidative agents like Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) to form thick, hard deposits called plaque.  This process damages the endothelial cells and causes the arteries and arterioles to become less flexible resulting in the cardiovascular disease know as atherosclerosis.  The narrowing and loss of flexibility of your blood vessels increases the potential for the formation of blood clots.  When blood clots lodged in the narrowing artery they can cause a heart attack or stoke.

The Skinny on Cholesterol Levels!
There is a great deal of confusing information about cholesterol levels and which numbers to pay attention to.  Let me give you a basic guideline and then break it down into greater detail:

If the total blood (serum) cholesterol is above 200 mg/dl or your HDL cholesterol is below 40 mg/dl or your LDL cholesterol is above 160 mg/dl you are at risk.

LDL cholesterol - All three measurements are important.  However, I concentrate on the LDL cholesterol first because it is the one that you have the greatest control over.  Additionally, it can cause the greatest damage to your endothelial cells affecting both cardiovascular and sexual health.  The lower the LDL, the lower your risk for a stroke or heart attack!

There are five basic risk levels:

Optimal

Less than 100 mg/dl

Near Optimal

100 to 129 mg/dl

Borderline

130 to 159 mg/dl

High Risk

160 to 189 mg/dl

Very High Risk

190 mg/dl and above

Because genetics and other risk factors are at play these are just general guidelines.  Always seek qualified medical input to help properly determine what is best for you.

HDL cholesterol – Some consider this measurement to be even more important than the LDL reading because it seems to protect the endothelial cells. The general guideline is higher levels are always better. Men and women are different in this category:

Men – Less than 40 mg/dl puts you at risk for heart disease. Women – Less than 50 mg/dl places you at a greater risk for heart disease.

Your goal is to increase HDL.  There is a growing body of research which indicates that an HDL cholesterol level of 60 mg/dl or higher gives some additional protection against heart disease.

Total Blood (Serum) Cholesterol – Many health practitioners still focus on total blood cholesterol levels to evaluate your risk for heart disease and what your potential treatment program should be.  There are three basic categories:

Natural Changes to Your Cholesterol Levels!
The TV airways are loaded with pharmaceutical commercials designed to help you lower your total and LDL cholesterol levels.  Unfortunately, most medicines do not positively affect your HDL cholesterol.  Here are some natural ways that can improve all your cholesterol levels:

Understanding cholesterol levels and how they affect your health can be a confusing process.  Ultimately the goal is to lower total cholesterol levels while increasing your good HDL cholesterol and decreasing your bad LDL cholesterol.  Many people opt for pharmaceutical drugs to help them.  Unfortunately, pharmaceuticals carry a risk to your liver and don’t seem to improve the good HDL. 

Fortunately, there are several natural methods.  Methods that can help you accomplish the goal of improving all three parts of your cholesterol picture and without the negative side effects.  Choosing the natural path requires commitment but can also lead to additional health benefits and improved longevity.  The pharmaceuticals can be your backup if this natural pathway doesn’t work for you.  But always work in conjunction with a qualified health practitioner who can fine tune the best program for you.

Until next time may we both age youthfully!

Synergistically yours,
dan

P.S.     As a convenience, I’ve also included links to the following Blood Pressure & Cardiovascular Health articles:

Blood Pressure Overview!

7 Natural Steps to Take the Hyper Out of Hypertension!

The Mediterranean Diet Helps More Than Just The Heart!

African Americans, High Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Health!

Watermelon Can Lower Your High Blood Pressure!

Endothelial Cells, Nitric Oxide & Your Cardiovascular System!

Fruits & Vegetables are Key to Cardiovascular Health!

The Dry Beans – Low Incidence of Heart Disease Connections!

5 Major Risk Factors for Heart Disease!

Omega-3 from Fish Reduce the Risks of Repeat Heart Attacks by as Much as 45%!

 

Return from Cholesterol Levels to Blood Pressure & Cardiovascular Health

Return from Cholesterol Levels to Aging No More (Home Page)

 

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The information contained in this website and posted articles are for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam. The information contained in this website and posted articles has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.

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