Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is found in the blood and is essential for life. It is made by all animal cells.
Where does cholesterol come from?
Cholesterol comes from two main sources:
Liver (endogenous) – your cholesterol level is produced and cleared mainly by your liver.
Diet (exogenous) – cholesterol is found in meat and cheese.
- Saturated fat occurs in meat, deep fried foods, dairy products, processed food and baked goods.
- Trans fats occur in some fried and processed foods.
Is dietary cholesterol harmful?
Dietary cholesterol does not significantly impact blood cholesterol levels. Only a small number of people are vulnerable to high cholesterol foods.
There are many healthy foods that are high in cholesterol but there are a few bad foods such as fried foods, processed meats and desserts.
Cholesterol is an essential component of animal cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and certain substances that help you digest foods.
High levels of cholesterol in the blood can cause blockage of arteries and lead to heart attacks, strokes, blindness and renal failure.
Basic types of cholesterol
Cholesterol circulates in the blood attached to lipoproteins. These lipoproteins can make your cholesterol “good” or “bad”.
- “Good” cholesterol, HDL or high density lipoprotein removes excess cholesterol and takes it to the liver.
- “Bad” cholesterol, LDL or low density lipoprotein. High LDL levels lead to a buildup of cholesterol in the walls of arteries to narrow them and cause medical dangers such as heart attacks.
How is cholesterol measured?
Cholesterol is measured through a blood test after not eating for at least 12 hours.
Where can you get a cholesterol test?
- See your family doctor or urgent care center.
- Walk into any laboratory and request a cholesterol test (you do not need a doctor’s prescription).
- Go to your local drugstore and purchase a CDC-certified cholesterol testing kit.
Ideal cholesterol level
Total LDL HDL
125-200 mg/dl less than 100 mg/dl 40-50 mg/dl or higher
The LDL-to-HDL ratio
The LDL to HDL ratio is considered the best indicator for heart risk. In general the lower the ratio the lower the risk. Most healthcare providers would like to see a ratio below 5 to 1.
What affects cholesterol levels?
Heredity, age/sex, weight, diet, exercise and whether or not you smoke.
How is high cholesterol treated?
- Lifestyle changes and stop smoking.
- Eat more fiber, grains, fruits, vegetables and limit a saturated and trans fats diet.
- Achieve ideal weight for height.
- Medications such as statins, bile acid-binding drugs or resins, fibrates, niacin. Many of these medications have side effects and you may need to try several before getting a good result without issues.
Reasons to treat high cholesterol
To prevent heart disease, strokes, kidney disease and blindness.
Preventing and reversing the effects of high cholesterol
Studies have shown that subjects committed to a total plant-based diet can reverse coronary artery disease and angina.
What is the cost of a cholesterol test?
Self-care test kits bought from a drugstore may cost about $15 – $20.
A cholesterol or lipid panel done in a lab may cost about $60 while the test for just a cholesterol level is about $40.
Shop around and compare prices for a cholesterol test from any labs near you.
Cash pay pricing beats insurance-based pricing and hassles. Check prices before you book.
Written by HEALTHdrum