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How To Better Manage Cholesterol
Featured in the Daily News - Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like, waxy substance found in the bloodstream and in all the cells of the human body. It is produced by the liver and is found in meat and dairy products. Cholesterol is an important part of a healthy body because it is used for producing cell membranes, some hormones and serves other needed bodily functions. However, too much cholesterol in the blood is a major risk for coronary heart disease and for stroke.
There are two types of cholesterol, the good and the bad. It is important to understand the difference and to know the levels of good and bad cholesterol in your blood. Too much of one type ó or not enough of another ó can put you at risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke.
Cholesterol can not dissolve in the blood; instead it has to be transported to and from the cells by carriers called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is known as bad cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as good cholesterol. These two types of lipids, along with triglycerides and Lp(a) cholesterol, make up your total cholesterol count, which can be determined through a blood test .
According to the American Heart Association, "About one-fourth to one-third of blood cholesterol is carried by high-density lipoprotein (HDL)." HDL cholesterol is known as good cholesterol, because high levels of HDL seem to protect against heart attack. Low levels of HDL (less than 40 mg/dL) also increase the risk of heart disease.
When too much LDL cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. Together with other substances, it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible making it harder for blood to flow. These pieces of plaque can break apart and move through the bloodstream. Blood clots can also form around the plaque deposits, which in turn blocks blood flow. If the clot moves into the heart, lungs, or brain, it can cause a stroke, heart attack, or pulmonary embolism.
According to Dr. John Contovasilis, a Corporate Medical Director of the Queens Long Island Medical Group and practicing physician at the QLIMG Richmond Hill Office, "The first step is to evaluate patients and their risk factors, such as hypertension or diabetes. Then, one should check the family history for coronary artery disease, etc. Depending on these answers, a doctor may elect to have the patient modify their dietary habits and increase exercise."
Dr Contovasilis went on to say that, "In the event that people have multiple risk factors and a doctor feels their cholesterol levels are significantly high enough, then one would elect to institute dietary and pharmacological management."
High cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. As blood cholesterol rises, so does the risk of coronary heart disease. If there are other risk factors (high blood pressure or diabetes) as well as high cholesterol, this risk increases even more. The more risk factors, the greater one's chance of developing coronary heart disease. Also, the greater the level of each risk factor, the more that factor affects overall risk. So be sure to visit your doctor and have your cholesterol levels checked. Practicing preventative medicine may be the key to ensuring continuing good health. To make an appointment at a QLIMG medical office in your neighborhood call 1-877-75Q-LIMG.
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