Monitoring Your Cholesterol Levels

To understand why your cholesterol levels affect your body, you will need to look at what it does and where you get it. Cholesterol refers to the fat, wax-like substance naturally found in your body’s cells that help in the production of vitamins, hormones, and other substances that digest and break down food. Most of the cholesterol your body needs are made by your body, but others are also acquired from the food you eat.

To test your cholesterol levels, a fasting blood test or lipoprotein profile or analysis is used to measure your levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. You will need to fast before the test, so you should avoid eating and drinking for 14 hours before a blood sample is taken.

Types of Cholesterol Lipoproteins

Cholesterol travels through your veins as lipoproteins, which are small packs made of cholesterol, protein, triglycerides, and phospholipids. There are four types of lipoproteins that carry the cholesterol; very low-density lipoprotein or VLDL, intermediate-density lipoprotein or IDL, low-density lipoproteins, and high-density lipoproteins. A balanced LDL and HDL indicates good health, but if your LDL level is high, you are at risk of having clogged arteries.

1. Low-Density Lipoproteins

LDL is sometimes called the “bad cholesterol” because high levels of LDL can build up cholesterol in your arteries. According to doctors in Singapore, if you have high levels of LDL, you are more likely to develop high blood cholesterol and coronary heart diseases. Too much cholesterol buildup can cause plaque (made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances) to form in the vessels that carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body (arteries).

When the plaques harden, the blood can no longer flow freely because the passageways have become narrower and less elastic. Narrowed arteries can severely limit the flow of oxygen to the brain and heart or the plaques can break open and cause blood clot. Oftentimes, when you have high blood cholesterol, there are no symptoms except if you already have pre-existing conditions such as hypertension. Your LDL level should be less than 100 mg/dL.

2. High-Density Lipoproteins

HDL is considered “good cholesterol” because it carries the excess cholesterol to your liver to be removed. The higher your HDL levels are, the less likely you will develop high blood cholesterol and coronary heart diseases. There is an inverse relationship between LDL and HDL because it’s theorized that HDL stimulates the function of the innermost layers of the arteries called endothelium, protect oxidation of LDL, reduce blood clotting, and reduce inflammation.

Your HDL level can be measured using nuclear magnetic resonance and looked at for its HDL average size, particle number, functional properties, and specific subclasses. To increase HDL cholesterol, you have to stop smoking, do regular exercises, monitor or maintain or lose weight, choose healthy food low in fat and carbohydrates, and reduce alcohol intake. A normal HDL level should be 40 to 49 mg/dL for men and 50 to 59 mg/dL for women

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