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People have been affected for many years by hypercholesterolemia, the medical term for High Cholesterol. However, ‘abnormal’ cholesterol levels can encompass both high levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol. This problem can treated by food that lowers cholesterol. Here we have both good and bad, so simply lowering cholesterol is not sufficient. LDL (Low Density Lipoproteins) is ‘bad’ and can cause the artery walls to fur up with a form of plaque on the insides of their walls. Other forms of bad cholesterol are: VLDL (very low density lipoproteins) which is similar to LDL, containing little protein, and much fat, and Triglycerides which are a form of fat carried by VLDL in the blood. The liver converts excess calories, sugar and alcohol into triglycerides, stored around the body in fat cells.

HDL (High density lipoproteins) is ‘good’ as it is instrumental in removing the bad cholesterol from the blood. In the case of HDL, the higher the levels in the blood, the better as this is lowering cholesterol. There are a number of reasons for high cholesterol, which often work together to bring about these levels. An unhealthy diet is one. Often changing to a low cholesterol diet will help to improve your levels and balance of good and bad cholesterol. However, if following a low cholesterol diet does not improve the situation your doctor may feel that medication is necessary. Inheritance can be another cause of high cholesterol.

Sometimes the genes responsible for removing the LDL from the blood and for manufacturing HDL do not work optimally and this can be passed through families. Familial hypercholesterolemia is one form of inherited high cholesterol that is reported to affect 1 in 500 people and can often lead to heart disease at an early age. Age itself is also another factor in determining high cholesterol, as cholesterol levels rise naturally as we age. Gender also plays a role. Women before the menopause generally have lower levels of cholesterol than similarly aged men. After the menopause the cholesterol levels in women typically rise until around 60 – 65 years of age. Very often women above the age of 50 tend to have total cholesterol levels higher than those of men of their age.

High cholesterol presents some major risks to health, often resulting in heart disease and strokes. In time hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) is caused by the gradual build-up of plaque (a hard and thick deposit that forms on the inside walls of the arteries as a consequence of high cholesterol levels in the blood). This causes a narrowing of the space in which the blood can flow to the heart. The results are: angina – the arterial chest pain caused when insufficient oxygen is transferred to the heart via the blood, and heart attack – the result of the blood supply being completely cut off to a section of the heart, usually due to a blood clot forming over the plaque narrowed space in the artery. To summarize: The greater the levels of LDL in the blood and/or the lower the levels of HDL the higher the risk of heart disease and worse. Therefore cholesterol control should be thought about as part of everyday routine. Measure the amount of cholesterol that you eat and the exercise that you take to ensure healthy levels of cholesterol both now and in the future.

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