Is it worth lowering cholesterol?
Cholesterol has been a constant topic of conversation for many years. Despite this, most people still do not understand how it works in the body, and what is worse, more and more myths arise. This article aims to explain the impact of cholesterol on human health and approximate the answer whether it is worth lowering it artificially with drugs.
Where does it come from?
There are several good sources in food. The most common are definitely eggs and meat. Interestingly, the amount of cholesterol consumed with the diet does not really matter, because the main “producer” of this chemical is the liver. Depending on the amount of consumption, e.g. eggs or meat, you can influence its level in the range of 1-3% of the total amount. Such a small impact implies that restricting the consumption of animal products will not really help much. Paradoxically, people with hypercholesterolemia (excess cholesterol in the blood) may have a deficiency of this component in the tissues, and people with low blood levels may have a normal value in the tissues, because the receptors quickly capture it, which will be discussed later.
Why does the body synthesize cholesterol?
A good portion of humanity, including doctors, claims that cholesterol causes atherosclerosis. In that case, why does the liver produce endogenous cholesterol, does it want to bring us closer to death? Fortunately, this is not the case, and cholesterol is necessary for us to live.
It is part of cell membranes ensuring their proper functioning.
Takes part in the synthesis of vitamin D3.
It helps in the production of many important hormones.
Participates in the synthesis of bile acids, which are responsible for the proper distribution of fats.
Undesirable effects on the body.
All of the above health-promoting functions occur on the assumption that cholesterol enters the cell. In the event that it remains in the blood, it can become dangerous to the body, because it is likely to get into the blood vessels in the form of Oxy-LDL. Indeed, this promotes the development of atherosclerosis (formation of atherosclerotic plaques) and increases blood pressure. However, this situation only occurs under certain conditions. First of all, the endothelium of the blood vessels must be damaged, and thus inflammation occurs. This happens most often in the case of people who consume excessive alcohol, trans fats, confectionery, etc., in overweight people and smokers. All of the above factors combine the effects on the body’s production of pro-inflammatory cytokines including: Interleukin 1, IL-6 and TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor), which damage the endothelium of blood vessels.
Homocysteine behaves similarly. The elevated plasma concentration of this sulfur amino acid is especially dangerous for blood vessels because it causes their damage. High levels of this compound are most often found in people with a deficiency of B vitamins, especially B6, B9 and B12 as well as disturbed methylation.
We should also mention the excess of LDL in the blood. Low-density lipoproteins commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol” found in large quantities can convert to the free radical form Oxy-LDL (the oxidized form of LDL). In this nature, they induce inflammation and damage the epithelium of the vessels, penetrate into the smooth muscles of the vessels, which capture them through appropriate receptors further into macrophages, which ultimately leads to calcification of such a vessel. Excess Oxy-LDL, however, is not caused by too much cholesterol in the diet, but too low density and sensitivity of lipoprotein receptors.
The LDL antagonist is HDL high density lipoprotein, which is called “good cholesterol”. It transports unnecessary cholesterol from the bloodstream back to the liver where it is safely utilized or to other tissues such as the adrenal glands. This fraction is much more beneficial to the body because it has anti-inflammatory properties.
Cholesterol blood tests.
People who have read the text with understanding probably wonder now whether it is worth doing a test for blood cholesterol? Considering its total level, it doesn’t make sense to examine it. However, you can be tested for LDL and HDL in your blood. This should be done especially by obese, hypertensive people or those who have a family history of coronary artery disease. Elevated LDL levels are a cause for concern, while HDL hypercholesterolaemia is not a threat. Ways to control the level of these lipoproteins will be described in the next article.
In general, cholesterol can pose a threat to the body. This only happens under certain conditions that must be met. The main cause of heart attacks and atherosclerosis is not cholesterol itself, but an unhealthy lifestyle, lack of physical activity, elevated blood homocysteine levels and an incorrect diet. As a result, cholesterol finds its way into the blood vessels and forms atherosclerotic plaques in the company of other molecules.
The amount of food that is rich in this compound does not really matter, because the body itself adjusts the synthesis to its own needs. Blood test results do not reflect the actual mass of this compound in the body. For preventive and curative purposes, care should be taken to ensure high levels of HDL and low LDL in the blood. Cholesterol-lowering drugs should only be taken by people, for example, in acute coronary syndrome, familial hypercholesterolemia, an increased risk of heart attack, and not continuously.
In other cases, statins can have more side effects and more harm to the patient than they have potential benefits. It should be remembered that a physician should decide on the implementation of drug treatment.
Probably most of the readers wonder after reading the text how to lower LDL naturally and raise HDL. In general, there are several methods. They mainly concern changes in diet and lifestyle, which was mentioned earlier. Due to the length of this article, practical guidelines will be described in detail in the next.