What the hell is Cholesterol anyway?

A young gentleman recently asked me if I could help him out with his diet. I asked why he thought he needed help. He responded that he thought he had high cholesterol and he wanted to lower it. I was confused. Why do you think you have high cholesterol? When was the last time you had blood work? He told me hadn’t had blood work done in a few years…

I know this patient of mine isn’t alone. High blood cholesterol doesn’t have symptoms but there are plenty of causes. These different causes can range from genetic predisposition, to poor diet, liver dysfunction, thyroid dysfunction (including medications!), vitamin D imbalances – this includes not getting enough sunlight, and on and on and on. The only way to truly know is to get blood work done. 

Ok. So you go to the scary medical procedure lab. They lure you into this sterile room, stab you, and then they wait for you to leave to look at your blood. Now what?

There are multiple different forms of cholesterol. Cholesterol is vitally important for every single cell in your body! It’s one of the things that helps form the cell’s membrane. This helps keep the good stuff from going out and protects the bad stuff from coming in. 

However, most people think of blood cholesterol when they hear that big C word, but it is important to note that your body can get cholesterol from food as well. In fact, approximately 75% of the cholesterol in your blood is made from your liver, the other 25% (or more!) comes from other animal products aka food.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-soluble substance that is made by your liver. Blood cholesterol is essential for good health. Cholesterol is necessary for your body to perform important functions such as making hormones – including sex hormones, thyroid hormones, etc. – and transporting vitamins. Your body needs it to perform important jobs, such as making hormones and digesting fatty foods. 

Here are the major types of blood cholesterol:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or what the medical establishment typically refers to as “bad” cholesterol. Having high levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries and result in heart disease or stroke.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or what has come to be known as “good” cholesterol. HDL is known as “good” cholesterol because high levels of it can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Triglycerides, a type of fat in your blood that your body uses for energy. The combination of high levels of triglycerides with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol levels can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • Total cholesterol, the total amount of cholesterol in your blood based on your HDL, LDL, and triglycerides numbers.

There are even more types of cholesterol but we’d be getting into the minutiae. If you’re interested in learning more about Apoproteins A and B you’ll have to sit tight and wait for another post.

Any of these numbers can be moved appropriately if we address the underlying issues going on with your body systems.

Here’s an example of a patient’s blood cholesterol results after 3 months of working solely on dietary and habit changes:cholesterol change

As you can see from this brief case study these numbers can change rather drastically over a relatively short period of time without the use of drugs and even supplements. This obviously can alter from person to person which is why it’s important to seek help from a trusted healthcare professional.

Stay tuned for more information about cholesterol and how you can alter these numbers with a few lifestyle changes.

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