Cholesterol is either produced by the liver or consumed, and it is a necessary substance for survival. It composes nerve insulation, cell membranes, and is needed for some hormone production. Consumption of cholesterol is unnecessary, as the body creates enough on its own (Ma, 2004).
There are not different types of cholesterol, but cholesterol can be good and bad for heart health. Cholesterol travels through the body on low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) to perform its vital functions. During this travel, cholesterol can form plaque in arterial walls. This plaque can build up and slow or block blood flow to the heart. Slowing down blood flow can result in atherosclerosis and heart attacks. High-density lipoproteins (HDLs) carry cholesterol back to the liver. They are the recyclers of cholesterol and responsible for cleanup, which leads to less plaque in the arteries. The human body needs proper LDL and HDL balance to maintain health (Ma, 2004).
A blood test is required to measure total cholesterol and HDL. This is performed following a 12-hour fast. Total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dl, and HDL should be above 40 mg/dl. The higher the value for the HDL reading, the better. People with high LDL or low HDL, as previously stated, are more susceptible to atherosclerosis and heart attacks. People with a total cholesterol of over 240 mg/dl have twice the risk of heart disease (Ma, 2004).
Cholesterol can be controlled in many cases with diet and exercise, but there are genetic components which may make medications necessary. Some drugs can also elevate cholesterol level, which requires additional cholesterol drug treatment for the patient (Ma, 2004). High cholesterol is a common issue associated with the aging population, and testing for high cholesterol has become a routine part of annual exams. If caught early and effectively treated, morbidity and mortality as a result of high cholesterol decreases.
- Ma, H. (2004). Cholesterol and human health. Nature and Science, 2(4). Retrieved from http://www.sciencepub.net/nature/0204-supplement/04-mahongbao.pdf