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Know your panels: Understanding cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of fat that is essential for the functioning of the body. It is produced by the liver and is also found in certain foods, such as meat, dairy products, and eggs. However, high levels of cholesterol in the blood can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.


The two main types of cholesterol are high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL cholesterol is often referred to as "good" cholesterol because it helps to remove excess cholesterol from the blood and transport it to the liver for processing. LDL cholesterol, on the other hand, is often referred to as "bad" cholesterol because high levels of LDL can contribute to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.


The American Heart Association recommends that total cholesterol levels should be less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood. HDL cholesterol levels should be greater than 40 mg/dL for men and greater than 50 mg/dL for women, while LDL cholesterol levels should be less than 100 mg/dL.


There are several lifestyle factors that can help to lower cholesterol levels, including regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and consuming a diet that is low in saturated and trans fats. Supplements like omega-3 fatty acids and plant sterols have also been shown to have a positive effect on cholesterol levels.


In addition to lifestyle changes, cholesterol-lowering medications, such as statins, can be prescribed by a healthcare provider to help lower LDL cholesterol levels. Statins work by reducing the amount of cholesterol produced by the liver and increasing the liver's ability to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood. Other medications, such as bile acid sequestrants and niacin, can also be prescribed to help lower cholesterol levels.


It is important to work with a healthcare provider to determine the best approach for managing cholesterol levels based on individual risk factors and overall health.



References:

  1. American Heart Association. (2021). Know Your Fats. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/know-your-fats

  2. American Heart Association. (2021). Cholesterol. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol

  3. Mayo Clinic. (2021). High Cholesterol. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/symptoms-causes/syc-20350800

  4. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2020). High Cholesterol. Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/high-cholesterol

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