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Cholesterol Lowering Nutrients

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol (also called a lipid) is a fat-like substance present in cell walls or membranes everywhere in the body, including the brain, nerves, muscles, skin, liver, intestines, and heart. The body needs cholesterol to produce many hormones, vitamin D, the bile acids, build the walls of cells. The body makes cholesterol and gets it from food.

There are two types of cholesterol: a "good" cholesterol called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and a "bad" cholesterol called low-density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL cholesterol carries cholesterol back to the liver, where it is removed from the body. The liver can excrete excess cholesterol as bile acids. LDL transports cholesterol from the liver to the tissues of the body, therefore it is considered the "bad" cholesterol.

Cholesterol levels rise slightly with age. Women generally have a higher HDL cholesterol level than men.

High cholesterol risk factors

There are several factors that may contribute to high blood cholesterol:

  • a diet that's high in saturated fat and, less so, high in cholesterol (see below)
  • lack of exercise may increase LDL ("bad") cholesterol and decrease HDL ("good") cholesterol
  • family history - people are at a higher risk of high cholesterol if they have a direct male relative aged under 55 or female relative aged under 65 affected by coronary heart disease
  • being overweight, which may increase LDL ("bad") cholesterol and decrease HDL ("good") cholesterol
  • age and sex - cholesterol generally rises slightly with increasing age, and men are more likely to be affected than women
  • drinking alcohol excessively

About 70% of cholesterol is transported as LDL. This is mostly fat and not much protein. LDL causes cholesterol to be deposited in the arteries. High levels of LDL are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. LDL is sometimes referred to as "bad cholesterol".

The main aim of lowering cholesterol is to reduce the risk of heart disease. The type of treatment depends on the overall risk of heart disease.

Dangers of high cholesterol levels

Having high blood cholesterol is a risk factor for several diseases:

  • Atherosclerosis is a build-up of plaque on the inner walls of arteries. If the LDL levels are too high, the excess can accumulate on the arterial walls. This build-up of plaque can narrow the artery and lead to arteriosclerosis, which turns the normally flexible tissue into more brittle.
  • Alzheimer's disease - people with high cholesterol levels are at increased risk for developing Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia
  • Cardiovascular disease - high cholesterol is a direct contributor to cardiovascular disease, which can lead to stroke and heart attack. The World Health Organization estimates that about 20% of all strokes and over 50% of all heart attacks can be linked to high cholesterol.


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May 30, 2020