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Cholesterol – a misunderstood concept – Part 2

In the last article we talked about the two types of cholesterol in our body – Blood cholesterol and Dietary cholesterol. If your diet does not contain much cholesterol, your intestines will increase their absorption to compensate and produce their own cholesterol. If your diet contains excessive amounts of cholesterol, your body will reduce its absorption, decrease its synthesis and increase its excretion rate. We also saw that you only need to worry about the cholesterol levels in your food if your overall lifestyle and diet are reckless and unhealthy. If you haven’t read the article, you can find it here.

In this article, we’ll take you through different cholesterol carriers and why high LDL is a problem and not the cholesterol inside them. Lipoproteins are carriers that transport cholesterol in and out of our body.

Types of cholesterol

There are three different carriers of cholesterol in our body:
1. LDL (Low-Density Lipoproteins)
2. HDL (High-Density Lipoproteins)
3. VLDL (Very Low-Density Lipo Proteins).
One needs to understand that the above lipoproteins are merely carriers and they are not cholesterol by themselves.

Functions of the carriers

HDL transports cholesterol from body cells and delivers it to the liver for disposal. Since it removes cholesterol from our body, people started calling it the ‘Good Cholesterol’. HDL also plays a role in your immune system. LDL transports cholesterol to the cells and arterial linings. As we discussed in the first article, cholesterol is needed for various bodily functions. So LDL is only doing its job of moving cholesterol to our cells wherever it’s needed. But poor thing got a bad rap and began to be referred to as the ‘Bad cholesterol’.

 

 

High LDL cholesterol is notorious for triggering cardiovascular diseases by becoming lodged in our arteries. Total cholesterol, on the other hand, is not the most accurate risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. As you know, cholesterol does not move through our blood but rather through Lipoproteins.

How can I interpret my cholesterol results?

The problem that we often perceive as high cholesterol is in fact an issue of high level of LDLs in the body. Let’s look at this using a traffic jam analogy to drive the point home. Imagine LDLs as cars, arteries as road rails, cholesterol as passengers and HDL as the ambulance. When there is less traffic on the road and cars (LDLs) are being driven safely, they won’t collide with the rails (arteries) the passengers (cholesterol) are also safe. Now, when there is a heavy traffic with more cars (more LDLs) and as the traffic grows, the cars can potentially hit the rails (arteries). If the traffic outgrows, the rails can fall off, forming a plaque. In that case, ambulance (HDLs) arrives and takes the injured passengers (Cholesterol) out of the road (body).

So what’s the main source for the plaque formation here? Cars or passengers? That’s right, it’s the number of cars (number of LDLs) that caused the problem. So if the LDL numbers are high, you need to bring it down. LDLs and VLDLs get stuck in our arterial walls through a lipoprotein called ApoB. Therefore, along with the LDL numbers, you need to check the ApoB numbers as well. Of all the numbers from your blood cholesterol work, the total ApoB particle number is the best measure of cardiovascular risks. If your lab cannot measure ApoB, non-HDL cholesterol is the best alternative measure.

 

What causes a high LDL number?

Your body can have a higher LDL number than usual because of several reasons. A common cause is obesity. Our body doesn’t prefer higher levels of visceral fat. But as the body fat goes higher, visceral fat goes higher as well and our organs start to dysfunction. Because of more free-flow of fatty acids in the blood, LDL carriers increase. Therefore, it is crucial to keep your body fat in a healthier range. (< 20% for men and < 30% for women).

There is evidence revealing that genetics potentially can play its part too. Individuals who have a history of cardiovascular diseases in their family thus have to pay extra attention to their diet to keep their cholesterol levels in check, as they are genetically burdened with increased risk.

 

How can I reduce the LDL levels?

 

Your diet once again plays an important role in keeping the numbers in a healthy range. Consume foods that are higher in unsaturated fat content. Increase the intake of unsaturated fats and reduce saturated fats. You can refer to the previous article to know what foods have unsaturated fats and saturated fats. (link)

 

If your LDL numbers are high and your doctors have advised you to lose weight, worry not. We’ve got you! You can talk to one of our experts for guidance throughout your weight loss journey. Check out the link to schedule an appointment now.

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