Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cholesterol – friend or foe?

Dear friend , this post is going to be entirely different but I promise , it will also give you some sort of info....regarding one of the main reason of "Heart Attack"

Cholesterol – Without it, we could’t survive. But too much of this waxy substance in your blood can lead to heart disease, the number one killer of men and women in the United States. The higher your blood cholesterol, the greater your risk for developing heart disease and suffering a heart attack, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
Every year, more than 1 million Americans suffer a heart attack and about 500,000 people die from heart disease. However, because high blood cholesterol does not cause any symptoms, many people (more than 50 percent by recent estimates) are either inadequately treated or unaware that their cholesterol level is too high. Considering that 41 million estimated American adults have high cholesterol (according to the American Heart Association), the failure to appreciate high cholesterol’s importance places many people at unnecessary risk for developing future heart disease.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is naturally found in all parts of our bodies. It is present in the walls and membranes of every cell, including cells in the brain, nerves, muscle, skin, liver, intestines, and heart. Without cholesterol, our bodies could not function properly. It acts as the backbone of hormones like estrogen and testosterone, vitamin D, and bile acids that help us to digest fat.
Cholesterol in the body comes from two major sources. The first is from the liver, which is the body’s major cholesterol-producing organ. We also consume foods that contain cholesterol – red meat and eggs have particularly high levels. Because the liver is usually able to make enough cholesterol to satisfy all of our bodily needs, however, too much dietary cholesterol can lead to high bodily levels of cholesterol. (Some liver disorders also lead to excess cholesterol levels.)
These high levels are undesirable because it is difficult for our bodies to appropriately dispose of excess cholesterol. Excess cholesterol has a tendency to deposit into the walls of our arteries, particularly the arteries that lead to our hearts (or coronary arteries). It is these deposits that lead to development of "hardening of the arteries," or atherosclerosis (see accompanying image).
Left untreated, atherosclerosis is a condition that causes progressive narrowing of the arteries. Narrowing may even occur to the point where the artery becomes either severely or completely blocked. If the blockage occurs in a coronary artery, you may have severe chest pain (called angina) or a heart attack. If the blockage involves an artery in the brain, you may have a stroke.

The difference between LDL and HDL cholesterol

Cholesterol does not travel freely in the bloodstream. Rather, cholesterol is carried through the blood by particles called lipoproteins. Cholesterol also behaves differently depending on which type of lipoprotein carries it. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) deposit excess cholesterol on the artery linings (LDL cholesterol is the "bad" cholesterol), and high-density lipoproteins (HDL) remove excess cholesterol from the blood (HDL cholesterol is the "good" cholesterol). Triglycerides are another type of substance closely related to cholesterol. They are mostly carried throughout the bloodstream by particles called chylomicrons or very low-density lipoproteins (VLDLs). While less is known about triglycerides, in general, there is some evidence to suggest that they are a particularly important cause of coronary artery disease among women and people with other risk factors such as diabetes and obesity.
According to the new guidelines released in May 2001 by the NHLBI's National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), everyone age 20 and older should have their cholesterol and triglyceride levels measured at least once every five years. This blood test is done after a nine- to 12-hour fast and provides information about your total cholesterol (TC), LDL and HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. If your total blood cholesterol is 200 milligrams (mg) per deciliter (dL) or more, or if your HDL level is less than 40 mg/dL, you should talk to your doctor about ways to lower your cholesterol, which may include changing your diet, increasing exercise, or medication.
HDL cholesterol protects against heart disease. This means that higher numbers of HDL cholesterol are better. A level less than 40 mg/dL is considered low and a major risk factor for the development of coronary artery disease. HDL levels of 60 mg/dL or more help to lower your risk for heart disease.
Triglycerides also can raise heart disease risk. Levels that are borderline high (150-199 mg/dL) or high (200 mg/dL or more) may require treatment for some people.
The NHLBI classification of the optimal level of LDL cholesterol is less than 100 mg/dL. Borderline high is 130-159 mg/dL, and very high is 190 mg/dL and above. High LDL cholesterol always requires attention. Your chance of developing coronary artery disease increases if you also have one or more other heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and/or an early family history of heart disease.
The following table shows the NHLBI's classification of all cholesterol levels.

Reducing your cholesterol

Lowering cholesterol is important for everyone, including younger, middle-aged, and older adults, and people with or without heart disease and/or stroke. Lowering cholesterol levels that are too high lessens the risk for developing heart disease and reduces the chance of a heart attack or dying of heart disease. This is especially true for people who have already suffered a heart attack.
There are several ways to treat high cholesterol. One option is known as therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC), which includes a cholesterol-lowering diet (called the TLC diet), physical activity, and weight management. In some cases, it may be necessary to take cholesterol-lowering drugs together with TLC treatment to lower LDL cholesterol levels. Depending on what your LDL level is, your doctor will decide which approach is best for you. See Part 2 of the Cholesterol Patient Guide to learn more about how you can lower your cholesterol.

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