Cholesterol and what does it mean?
Cholesterol is a type of lipid (fat) with many important functions. It is essential for the normal functioning of the body and is a component of cell membranes, involved in hormone production and vitamin D metabolism.
There are 2 main sources of cholesterol in the blood:
- dietary cholesterol
- cholesterol produced by the liver
Types of cholesterol
HDL – high-density cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) – is the number that would be good to have higher.
LDL – low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) levels should be lower. Triglycerides are another type of fat in the blood. High triglyceride levels usually mean that you regularly eat more calories than you burn. High intakes can increase the risk of heart disease.
Why is cholesterol important?
Cholesterol levels are important because they help you know your risk of heart disease.
HDL removes “bad” cholesterol from the blood, carrying unwanted cholesterol back to the liver where it is broken down and removed from the body.
Too much cholesterol in the blood is harmful. It can enter the blood vessel wall, damaging its integrity and causing the formation of atherosclerotic plaques, which narrow the arteries and make them less flexible.
This process of plaque accumulation is called atherosclerosis. This can lead to serious problems, depending on which blood vessels are more affected:
Coronary artery disease: impaired blood flow in the heart.
Peripheral vascular disease: impaired circulation in the legs and arms.
Carotid artery disease: impaired blood flow to the brain.
It is impossible to feel elevated cholesterol – cholesterol travels silently through the bloodstream. And quietly turn into plaques. It is possible to go for a long time without noticing or noticing cholesterol activity and not have any symptoms until… a heart attack or stroke.
As it is possible to live for many years without feeling the effects of cholesterol, you should have your blood cholesterol checked regularly. If cholesterol levels are too high, other risk factors should also be considered
How often and when to check your cholesterol
Cholesterol levels vary according to age, weight and gender
Under 19 years
For children with no family history of premature deaths or familial hypercholesterolaemia (a genetically inherited disease – such children are screened from the age of 2 years), cholesterol screening should be done twice: in childhood and in late adolescence. The first screening should be carried out between the ages of 9 and 11, and the second between the ages of 17 and 21.
From 20 years
The body produces more cholesterol over time, which is why it is recommended that everyone aged 20 and over should have their cholesterol checked regularly, ideally about every 5 years.
Annual screening is recommended for men aged 40 and over and for women aged 50 and over.
What influences cholesterol
Factors that can be changed.
1. Unhealthy lifestyle habits. Eating a diet high in saturated fat increases levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol. Saturated fats are found in fatty meat and dairy products. No more than 10% of your daily calories should come from saturated fat.
2. Lack of physical activity.
3. Smoking lowers HDL cholesterol, especially in women, and increases LDL cholesterol.
4. Stress can increase levels of certain hormones such as corticosteroids. This can encourage your body to produce more cholesterol.
5. Drinking too much alcohol (more than two drinks a day for men or one drink a day for women) can increase total cholesterol levels.
Factors that cannot be changed:
1. Genetic inheritance.
2. Familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) is an inherited condition in which a high cholesterol cluster is found even in the absence of other risk factors.
1. Kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, thyroid problems (hypothyroidism – when the body does not produce enough thyroid hormones);
2. Growth hormone deficiency (when not enough growth hormone is produced).
You can consult our family doctors.