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High Cholesterol and Heart Risk

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance that is essential for the normal functioning of the body. Cholesterol is present in cell walls or membranes and is also present in organs like the brain, skin, liver, intestines, and heart. The body uses only a small amount of cholesterol in the blood to make hormones, vitamin D, and bile. Excess of cholesterol in the bloodstream is accumulated in the arteries, like the arteries of the heart, the arteries to the brain, and also the arteries that supply blood to the legs, causing the narrowing and blockage of the arteries leading to decreased blood supply and producing signs and symptoms originating from that part of the body. Cholesterol hardens and sticks to the artery walls, causing them to narrow and resulting in a condition called atherosclerosis. If clots are formed, they further block the already narrowed arteries, causing heart attack as the blood can no longer pass through the narrowed arteries to supply oxygen to the heart muscle. There are two types of cholesterols that people are familiar with:

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: Also known as "good" cholesterol it helps carry away LDL cholesterol keeping arteries open enabling free flow of blood. HDL works to clear cholesterol from the blood thus reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: Also called the "bad" cholesterol as too much of it in the blood causes the buildup of plaques in the arteries reducing blood flow. These plaques rupture and can lead to a heart attack or stroke. LDL is the main source of artery-clogging plaque so an increase in LDL levels increases the risk of heart disease.
  • Triglycerides: Triglycerides are fat deposits that are kept in the body. The triglycerides that is not stored as fat remain in the blood stream which thicken the blood and increases the possibility of clotting and blockage which can eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke. So it is important to keep your triglyceride levels as low as possible. Elevated triglycerides may contribute to a hardening of artery walls, and elevates your risk of heart attack or heart disease.
The ideal numbers needed for a healthy heart are:
  • Ideal HDL level is 60 mg/dL or higher is good.
  • An LDL level of less than 100 mg/dL is known to be the best.
  • 200 mg/dL or greater is considered to be high levels of triglycerides.