Cholesterol: types and causes


cholesterolCholesterol plaque in artery

Cholesterol – the types & the causes

Cholesterol is a buttery, fat-like substance found in all the cells in the human body. Humans need cholesterol to make vitamin D, digestive enzymes, and hormones. Your body makes most of the cholesterol it needs, but cholesterol is also found in foods.

Hormones from Cholesterol

Vitamin D acts as a steroidal hormone. Vitamin D conversion takes place in the liver, and the resulting cholesterol-based compound supports literally hundreds of immune system functions. It also regulates calcium in the blood, both for bone and heart health.

• Cholesterol conversion also provides glucocorticoids, without which the conversion of carbohydrates into energy is impossible. This form of cholesterol also provides cortisol, an anti-inflammatory that mediates in autoimmune disorders.

• Cholesterol delivers mineralocorticoide hormones like aldosterone, which are essential to electrolyte function, notably the control of sodium and potassium.

• Cholesterol converts to androgenic hormones like testosterone and DHEA. The first is essential to libido and sexual function, the second to bone development and density, as well as memory and anti-aging.

• Finally, cholesterol converts to progestogens like progesterone, vital to regulating menstrual cycles and regulating conception, gestation and birth. It also delivers estrogenic hormones like estradiol, which not only regulate sexual development but bone and brain health.

What are Lipoproteins

Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream in small groups called lipoproteins. “Lipo” is Greek for “fat”.

HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is often called “good” cholesterol. This is because it carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver, which removes the cholesterol from your body, thus preventing heart disease. LDL (low-density lipoprotein), sometimes called “bad” cholesterol, can build up in arteries in the form of “plaque”, potentially leading to coronary heart disease or stroke.

Plaque is a combination of cholesterol, fat, calcium, and other substances. High LDL cholesterol – plaque buildup, or atherosclerosis– has no symptoms. Often, the only way people learn they have it is by getting a specific blood test at a clinic or hospital for unrelated reasons.

What are Triglycerides

A final concern for individuals at risk of heart disease is triglycerides. Triglycerides are another type of lipid, or fat, that builds up in blood when individuals consume more calories than are needed to maintain the body and the ability to participate in various activities.

Normal triglyceride levels are less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). High levels are from 200 to 499 mg/dL. Critical levels are anything above 500 mg/dL. Levels above 1000 mg/dL can cause acute pancreatitis. Testing for high triglycerides, often called a lipid panel, requires about 12 hours fasting.

The only difference between cholesterol and triglycerides are the types of fats that comprise them. While cholesterol levels can warn of coronary heart disease, high triglycerides flag “metabolic syndrome” – a condition that includes too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels. This syndrome is equally likely to cause heart disease, stroke, and other maladies.