What is LDL or “bad” cholesterol?
LDL cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein is part of a group of substances called lipoproteins that the body produces to transport cholesterol to the cells. It is essential for the body, but it is known as “bad” cholesterol because high levels can cause a buildup on the walls of the arteries known as atherosclerosis.
What about HDL or “good”?
HDL or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol is known as the “good” cholesterol because it helps remove other forms of cholesterol from the bloodstream. HDL collects excess cholesterol in the blood and transports it to the liver, where it is broken down and removed from the body.
Why do I need a cholesterol test?
High LDL cholesterol values can cause arteriosclerosis, affecting all the arteries in the body, mainly in the heart and brain, and can eventually lead to myocardial infarction or stroke. Cholesterol levels can be analyzed through a blood test whose frequency depends on age, risk factors and family history. The general recommendations are: in adults from 20 years of age, every 5 years. Men from 45 to 65 years old and women from 55 to 65 years old should have it done every one or two years.
What does a high cholesterol level in a blood test mean?
If your cholesterol test has shown that you have elevated cholesterol, it is likely that your LDL cholesterol is above the recommended level. To maintain a healthy heart we should have a total cholesterol level below 200 mg/dL, LDL cholesterol below 130 mg/dL and HDL cholesterol above 40 mg/dL.
What can be the causes?
There are different factors that can cause an increase in cholesterol. A diet with saturated fat increases the level of cholesterol in the blood. The same is true for being overweight (raises LDL levels and lowers HDL levels), lack of physical exercise or smoking.
And factors not associated with lifestyle habits?
There are also. As women and men age, their cholesterol levels increase, especially with menopause in women. On the other hand, our genes partly determine the amount of cholesterol our body produces, to the point that there are diseases linked to our genes, such as familial hypercholesterolemia. The use of certain medications or suffering from ailments such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes or HIV can increase HDL cholesterol levels in the blood.
What are our risks with a high cholesterol level?
With the passage of time, the plaques adhered to the vessels can grow and narrow their walls or even rupture, obstructing the arteries. The most frequent location is the arteries of the heart or brain, which can lead to angina pectoris or acute myocardial infarction, or stroke.
What precautions can we take to avoid these high levels?
We should make lifestyle changes, eat a healthy and varied diet, control weight and practice physical activity at least 30 minutes a day. If these changes are not enough, it is necessary to go to the doctor to prescribe medication. Some, such as statins, are very effective and achieve cholesterol reductions of between 20 and 65%.