Cholesterol

Cholesterol isn't entirely the health villain it's made out to be, its name darkly linked to heart attack, stroke, and other types of cardiovascular disease. Our bodies need cholesterol, which is a type of lipid (another name for fat) to make cell membranes, key hormones like testosterone and estrogen, the bile acids needed to digest and absorb fats, and vitamin D. Cholesterol is so important to the body that the liver and intestines make it from scratch.

What is "bad" about cholesterol isn't the substance itself — in fact, we can't live without it — but how much of it is in the bloodstream.

The body packages cholesterol in two main particles: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called bad cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the so-called good cholesterol. Too much LDL in the bloodstream helps create the harmful cholesterol-filled plaques that grow inside arteries. Such plaques are responsible for angina (chest pain with exertion or stress), heart attacks, and most types of stroke.

What causes a person's LDL level to be high? Most of the time diet is the key culprit. Eating foods rich in saturated fats, trans fats, and easily digested carbohydrates boost LDL. Genes are sometimes at the root of high cholesterol, and some medications can boost LDL.

If you have high cholesterol, making changes in your diet can help bring it down into the healthy range. Exercise can help boost the level of protective HDL. Several types of medication, notably the family of drugs known as statins, can powerfully lower LDL. Depending on your cardiovascular health, your doctor may recommend taking a statin.

Cholesterol Articles

Is advanced lipoprotein testing useful?

Advanced lipoprotein testing measures the size, distribution, and number of the different types of tiny, protein-covered particles that carry cholesterol through the body. But there is no solid evidence that these tests can improve a person’s heart health. (Locked) More »

Managing statin muscle pain

Muscle aches and cramps—the most common side effects of statins—are more common in women than in men. Treating vitamin D deficiencies and low thyroid hormone levels, changing prescriptions, and making lifestyle changes may help. (Locked) More »

Is your salad dressing hurting your healthy diet?

Store-bought salad dressings often have extra calories, sodium, added sugar, saturated fat, and preservatives. One should look for dressing that has no more than 120 calories, 200 milligrams (mg) of sodium, 2 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of saturated fat per serving. If a favorite dressing exceeds those limits, dietitians recommend using only half a serving and mixing it with vinegar. It’s best to make a salad dressing at home with healthy ingredients such as olive oil, vinegar, garlic, mustard, spices, and citrus juice. (Locked) More »

The value of prevention

People who exercise, eat right, and follow other heart-healthy habits have much lower medical costs than people who don’t adhere to key heart disease prevention strategies, known as Life’s Simple 7. Created by the American Heart Association, the list also includes stopping smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. The savings arise mainly from avoiding hospital charges for heart surgeries and other procedures. More »

The new state of statins

Statin therapy continues to help men lower their cholesterol levels, which can reduce their risk for heart attack or stroke. Yet, new guidelines and research suggest that statins’ benefits do not apply to everyone. Men need to consider all factors like side effects, realistic expectations, and their overall risk for heart attack and stroke before deciding on statin therapy. (Locked) More »

Are you on the road to a diabetes diagnosis?

Having a higher-than-normal blood sugar level (100 and 125 mg/dL) is known as prediabetes, a condition that puts people at risk for diabetes and heart disease. Most people with prediabetes are overweight, and excess fat in the abdominal area is especially risky. Belly fat makes hormones and other substances that trigger chronic inflammation, which contributes to insulin resistance and sets the stage for prediabetes. Weight loss and exercise can help reverse the problem. (Locked) More »

Are eggs risky for heart health?

Large studies have not found evidence of higher rates of heart attacks, strokes, or other cardiovascular diseases in people who eat up to one egg per day.  (Locked) More »

Drug interactions with statins: Often preventable

Statins have been a mainstay of cholesterol-lowering therapy for over three decades. Today, nearly a quarter of all adults over age 40 take medication to treat high cholesterol, and most often it’s a statin drug. However, with such widespread use, especially among people who may have other cardiovascular risk factors, there is a distinct risk of an unwanted interaction between a statin and another medication. (Locked) More »