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Cholesterol

shutterstock_115198234-sizedUnderstanding your blood work. A high Lipid Panel Index indicates that there is a strong clinical indication of hyperlipidemia (high fat), which has been shown to indicate a potential risk of developing atherosclerotic coronary artery disease. Although hyperlipidemia is a cause, it’s important to look at many other risks for this disease including smoking, blood sugar dysregulation, hypertension, elevated homocysteine and other diet and lifestyle considerations.

Cholesterol is a steroid found in every cell of the body and in the plasma. It is an essential component in the structure of the cell membrane where it controls membrane fluidity. It provides the structural backbone for every steroid hormone in the body, which includes adrenal and sex hormones and vitamin D. The myelin sheaths of nerve fibers are derived from cholesterol and the bile salts that emulsify fats are composed of cholesterol. Cholesterol is made in the body by the liver and other organs, and from dietary sources. The liver, the intestines, and the skin produce between 60-80% of the body’s cholesterol. The remainder comes from the diet. Increased cholesterol is just one of many independent risk factors for cardiovascular disease. It is also associated with metabolic syndrome, hypothyroidism, biliary stasis, and fatty liver. Decreased cholesterol levels are a strong indicator of gallbladder dysfunction, oxidative stress, inflammatory process, low fat diets and an increased heavy metal burden.

LDL functions to transport cholesterol and other fatty acids from the liver to the peripheral tissues for uptake and metabolism by the cells. It is known as “bad cholesterol” because it is thought that this process of bringing cholesterol from the liver to the peripheral tissue increases the risk for atherosclerosis. Increased LDL cholesterol is just one of many independent risk factors for cardiovascular disease. It is also associated with metabolic syndrome, oxidative stress and fatty liver.

The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL is a far better predictor of cardiovascular disease than cholesterol by itself. A lower ratio is ideal because you want to lower cholesterol (but no too low) and raise HDL. A level below 3.0 would be ideal. Every increase of 1.0, i.e. 3.0 to 4.0 increases the risk of heart attack by 60%.

HDL functions to transport cholesterol from the peripheral tissues and vessel walls to the liver for processing and metabolism into bile salts. It is known as “good cholesterol” because it is thought that this process of bringing cholesterol from the peripheral tissue to the liver is protective against atherosclerosis. Decreased HDL is considered atherogenic, increased HDL is considered protective.