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Just what exactly is High Cholesterol?

Just what does high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) mean? High cholesterol is more often considered a metabolic imbalance rather than a disease in and of itself. Cholesterol is not by definition an unhealthy substance. It is actually used all over the body to build and maintain cell membranes; consequently, cholesterol is a very important building block for the ongoing construction of the body.

Basically, it is the way an individual’s body processes cholesterol that makes cholesterol unhealthy. Cholesterol and fatty acids are carried to and from the liver by biochemical substances known as lipoproteins. Lipoproteins encase cholesterol and triglycerides, so that these substances can be delivered throughout the body.

The type of lipoprotein carrying the cholesterol determines whether it is healthy or unhealthy.

High-density lipoproteins collect cholesterol from body tissues and delivers it back back to the liver for processing. For this reason, high density lipoproteins are know as “good” lipoproteins. When physicians check cholesterol levels, a high amount of HDL in the blood is considered to be healthy.

On the other hand, LDL (low density lipoprotein), which carries cholesterol from the liver to other body parts, is the lipoprotein considered to be unhealthy. LDL’s carry cholesterol to the arteries of the body. Studies indicate that the size and concentration of low-density lipoproteins determines if the low-density lipoproteins will result in atherosclerosis. Low-density lipoproteins are more commonly known as “high cholesterol”.

What causes hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol)? Some of the conditions associated with high cholesterol are diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroid, anorexia nervosa, kidney disease, obesity, and heredity. If left untreated, low-density lipoproteins in the blood increase the risk of heart attack, strokes, mini strokes, peripheral artery disease, and angina pectoris.

Treatment options for high cholesterol may involve dietary changes to reduce the amount of low density cholesterol in the blood. This can involve reducing the amount of processed carbohydrates we ingest as well as eliminating harmful trans fats. Trans fat consumption may lead to coronary artery disease.

Some individuals are unable to reduce their unhealthy cholesterol by dietary changes. Consequently, medications known as statins are most often used to treat hypercholesterolemia.

If you have hereditary familial hypercholesterolemia (a rare genetic metabolic disorder in which your body cannot metabolize cholesterol), then, depending upon the genetic mutation, statins may or may not be affective. If the individual’s condition cannot be treated with statins, niacin (B3) or acipimox may be used to treat LDL.

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