Cholesterol is a fat-like substance (lipid) present in the membrane of each one of our cells. Our body needs cholesterol to build cellular membranes, make hormones, digest our dietary fat intake, and assist with other very important bodily functions. Unfortunately there is a dark side to this seemingly helpful substance, one that negatively affects the lives of millions of people all over the world. Cholesterol travels in the blood in distinct particles containing both lipids and proteins (lipoproteins). When excessive amounts of cholesterol are circulated, they cause damage to the arteries, especially the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart. Cholesterol ridden plaque accumulates in vessel linings leading to a condition called "atherosclerosis". This is the main cause of coronary disease and heart attacks, the primary cause of premature death in the developed world.
Cholesterol - High Cholesterol and Heart Disease
High cholesterol levels impede blood flow to the heart and the heart muscle becomes starved for oxygen, causing chest pains (angina). If a blood clot obstructs a coronary artery affected by atherosclerosis, a heart attack (myocardial infarction) is likely to occur, and can often be fatal. Reducing cholesterol levels has become the primary method of reducing the risk of heart attacks in adults.
Heart disease stemming from high cholesterol levels is the major killer in America, far more than road accidents, plane crashes, drowning, and hurricanes combined together. More than 90 million American adults, or nearly 50 percent of the adult population has high blood cholesterol levels, the primary risk factor for heart disease. The higher your cholesterol level, the greater risk you have of suffering from heart disease as you age.
Cholesterol catalysts: Good Cholesterol and Bad Cholesterol
Three major classes of lipoproteins are found in the serum of a fasting individual: low density lipoproteins (LDL), high density lipoproteins (HDL), and very low density lipoproteins (VLDL). HDL cholesterol is considered "good" cholesterol, while LDL and especially VLDL cholesterol are considered the "bad" types of cholesterol that lead to heart disease if left untreated. Natural supplements such as Vasacor, and prescription medications such as Lipitor, are aimed at reducing the levels of the LDL and VLDL cholesterol that increase the risk of heart disease.
LDL cholesterol makes up 60-70 per cent of the total serum cholesterol. LDL is the major atherogenic lipoprotein and has been long ago identified as a primary target for cholesterol lowering therapy. LDL (and its cousin, VLDL) is the fatty substance that builds up on the walls of arteries, damaging the arterial wall and blocking the proper flow of blood. This typically results in higher blood pressure and unnecessary strain on the heart muscle.
HDL cholesterol makes up 20-30 percent of the total serum cholesterol.. Clinical evidence indicates that HDL helps protect against development of atherosclerosis. It is advisable to check your HDL levels from time to time. Increases in HDL levels are usually positively associated with a decrease in LDL and VLDL cholesterol levels.
The VLDL is triglyceride-rich lipoproteins and contains 10-15 percent of the total serum cholesterol .VLDL are produced by the liver and some VLDL remnants seem to promote atherosclerosis similar to LDL. VLDL is the "purest" form of the sticky artery-clogging cholesterol, and also the hardest to measure. VLDL cholesterol is usually estimated within a range based on the levels of free triglycerides circulating in the blood stream. Lowering your triglycerides will have a direct and beneficial effect on your VLDL levels as well.