The #1 Cause of "Waxy" Cholesterol in Your Blood
We all need cholesterol to help build healthy cells and make hormones. We get the waxy-like substance from two sources: our liver and the food we eat, but too much of a good thing can actually be harmful and lead to heart disease. High cholesterol often doesn't show symptoms and a blood test is the only way to detect the common condition, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Nearly 94 million U.S. adults age 20 or older have total cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dL. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with
Eric Stahl, MD Non-Invasive Cardiologist at Staten Island University Hospital who shares what to know about cholesterol. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
What to Know About Cholesterol
Dr. Stahl explains, "Cholesterol is found in the bloodstream and is needed for metabolism and good health. However, excess cholesterol that is produced or absorbed from diet increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack or stroke. There are different types of cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is bad cholesterol. It binds to fats and builds in the walls of the arteries. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is good cholesterol and it removes bad cholesterol from the bloodstream."
What's Considered a Healthy Blood Cholesterol Level
Dr. Stahl says, "Depending on risk factors and medical history, people have different cholesterol goals. In general, total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL. LDL should be less than 130 mg/dL or less than 70 mg/dL in those who have had a heart attack or stroke. HDL should be above 60 mg/dL."
The Dangers of High Cholesterol
"High cholesterol or LDL causes atherosclerosis, which is the process by which fatty plaque deposits in the walls of the arteries," says Dr. Stahl. "As atherosclerosis progresses, arteries narrow and harden, limiting blood flow to certain areas of the body. This process can result in heart attack, stroke, or peripheral artery disease."
How to Control Your Cholesterol
Dr. Stahl shares, "Everyone with high cholesterol should work to lower their levels through improving diet, increasing physical activity, and losing weight. The Mediterranean diet is a heart healthy diet to follow. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or at least 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise. When these measures are insufficient, cholesterol lowering medications, such as statins, should be started. "
Causes of High Cholesterol
Dr. Stahl explains, "People develop high cholesterol for a number of reasons. Some people inherit genes from their family that increases their risk for hypercholesterolemia. Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a genetic disorder of the breakdown of LDL and is characterized by extremely elevated levels of LDL. Elevated Lipoprotein(a) (Lp(a)) is another inherited disorder that results in accelerated atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease. Those with a family member who has had a heart attack or stroke, particularly at a young age, should undergo screening to measure their LDL and Lp(a) levels. For others, lifestyle behaviors contribute to elevated cholesterol levels. Poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and smoking all independently impact cholesterol. Foods to avoid include red meat, cheese, butter, fried foods, and any foods that are high in saturated fat."