High CholesterolCholesterol and triglycerides are forms of lipid, or fat, carried in the bloodstream, and are essential for our bodies. Cholesterol is necessary for building cell membranes and for making certain hormones. Triglycerides provide energy for cells to function. Too much cholesterol in the blood, however, is a major risk for coronary heart disease. The medical term for this condition is ''hypercholesterolemia''.
Cholesterol (and triglycerides) can be present in the body either from diet or can be endogenous (i.e. manufactured within the body). The dietary lipids are available in the body from food containing animal products or saturated fat. The liver combines the lipids with special proteins to make lipoproteins which are delivered to cells through the bloodstream. At times when dietary lipids are not available, the liver itself produces the same.
The cholesterol in the blood is of two kinds, LDL and HDL. LDL which is low density lipoprotein is considered to be bad whereas HDL or High density lipoprotein is good. However the total amount of cholesterol is the sum of HDL and LDL in certain proportions in the blood. The exact proportion of HDL and LDL differs from person to person.
When the ''bad'' LDL cholesterol levels are too high, they tend to stick, as plaque, to the artery walls leading to hardening and narrowing of the arteries - a condition known as "atherosclerosis" which can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Thus, high cholesterol (high LDL levels, in effect) is a major risk factor for heart disease.
High cholesterol levels can be due to a number of causes including heredity, poor diet, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, age etc. Of these risk factors, only heredity and age cannot be controlled. High cholesterol levels can also arise in some people due to certain medical conditions such as diabetes (characterized by high blood sugar), obstructive liver disease, chronic renal (kidney) failure etc. In such people, the treatment of the underlying disease can reduce the high cholesterol levels.
Several drugs are now available to reduce high cholesterol. However, the preferred route (unless underlying disorders mandate the use of drugs) should be non-prescription (natural) methods such as a low fat (or fat free) diet, exercise and weight loss. Such a lifestyle change, admittedly, is not easy. However, the benefits of change include control of diabetes, heart disease and stroke and go far beyond merely reducing cholesterol levels.
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