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 Cholesterol and Heart Disease

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When the arteries in your heart become narrowed or clogged by cholesterol and fat deposits they can't supply enough blood to the heart, which results in heart disease. One of the ways you can reduce your risk of heart disease is by gaining control over your cholesterol.

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that can be found in all parts of your body. It aids in the production of cell membranes, some hormones and vitamin D. The cholesterol in your blood comes from two sources: the foods you eat and your liver. However, your liver makes all of the cholesterol your body needs.

Cholesterol and other fats are transported in your blood stream in the form of round particles called lipoproteins. The two most commonly known lipoproteins are low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).

LDL is commonly called the "bad" cholesterol. It's a type of fat in the blood that contains the most cholesterol, so you want your LDL to be low. HDL is known as the "good" cholesterol. It's a type of fat in the blood that helps to remove cholesterol from the blood. Since "good" cholesterol prevents the fatty buildup and formation of plaque, you want your HDL to be high. Your total cholesterol is a combination of LDL, HDL and other lipids (fats).

What Is a Healthy Cholesterol Level?

High cholesterol is a significant risk factor in heart disease. Cholesterol is specific to each individual and a full lipid profile is an important part of your medical history.

In general, ideal levels are as follows:

  • LDL - less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl)
  • HDL - greater than 40 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) for men, greater than 50 mg/dL for women
  • Triglycerides- less than 150 mg/dL
  • A total cholesterol level below 200 mg/dL is considered desirable

If you already have coronary artery disease (CAD) or an increased number of risk factors for heart disease, your physician may determine that your LDL cholesterol level must be lower than100 and may even need to be lower than 70.

Recent studies have shown that those who are at highest risk for a heart attack should lower their LDL cholesterol level to less than 100. An LDL cholesterol level of 70 or less may be optimal for those people at the very highest level of risk. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How to Control Your Cholesterol

It is important to work with your doctor on a plan to control your cholesterol. Some general tips include: