Cholesterol: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

May 11, 2011

While cholesterol is an essential material, high levels of cholesterol flowing through the bloodstream can actually lead to the development of a condition called atherosclerosis, which is the gradual build-up of plaque along the inner walls of veins and arteries.

In fact, 34.5 million American adults are currently suffering from high cholesterol levels — that’s nearly 12% of the population! That doesn’t even include the 60 million Americans suffering from some form of cardiovascular disease. And 13.6 million Americans living in the United States suffer from coronary artery disease. As a result of that, 2.5 million suffer heart attack and stroke — 50% of which are fatal.

Humans and all other mammals rely on cholesterol — a lipidic, waxy steroid that establishes a proper “membrane permeability” and “fluidity” within the bloodstream. Cholesterol is also referred to as a lipoprotein, which is an assembly of both proteins and lipids. There are two fundamental forms of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL is the cholesterol that you have to watch out for; it’s often referred to as the “bad cholesterol.” It transports cholesterol and triglycerides from the liver to the peripheral or “blood” tissues. LDLs pump cholesterol-rich blood through the arteries and are in turn retained by the arterial proteoglycans (the filler substance between cells), forming plaque and, ultimately, a myriad of cardiovascular issues.

HDL cholesterol, or HDL-C, on the other hand, can actually protect against cardiovascular complications. HDLs are the smallest of the lipoproteins. That’s because they are densely compacted with the highest proportion of protein. Unlike LDL, HDL cholesterol primarily transports cholesterol to the liver or “steroidogenic” organs. The steroidogenic organs are those that are involved in the biological synthesis of steroid-based hormones, such as the adrenals, ovaries and testes.

Concentrated quantities of cholesterol within the bloodstream may also lead to hormonal imbalance, such as hypothyroidism, which is the insufficient production of the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Some common symptoms of hypothyroidism include increased sensitivity to cold temperatures, fatigue, poor muscle tone, depression, muscle cramps, joint pain, abnormally low heart rate (<60BPM) and decreased perspiration. Doctors test for thyroid disorders through a process of calculating how much thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is being produced by the pituitary gland. High levels of TSH indicate that the thyroid is not producing adequate levels of thyroid hormones — especially thyroxine.

Read the full article: The Cholesterol Connection

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