There are two types of cholesterol: cholesterol made by the body, and dietary cholesterol. Cholesterol in the body is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all cells. Your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods; it is also essential for your blood, and your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. Dietary cholesterol is found in foods from animal sources, such as egg yolks, meat, and cheese.
If you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it can combine with other substances to form plaque. Plaque sticks to the walls of your arteries and can build up, a condition known as atherosclerosis, which can lead to coronary artery disease, where your coronary arteries become narrow or even blocked. High cholesterol causes an assortment of health risks, including blood clots, angina (chest pain), heart attack, heart disease and strokes.
Cholesterol levels are often described in terms of “good cholesterol” (HDL) and “bad cholesterol” (LDL or VLDL):
• HDL = high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol because it carries it from other parts of your body back to your liver, which in turns flushes it out of your system.
• LDL = low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol because high levels lead to plaque buildup in your arteries.
• VLDL = very low-density lipoprotein, and is also often classed as a “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to plaque build up as well; it differs from LDL in that it carries mainly triglycerides, the most common fat in the body.
High cholesterol has no discernible symptoms. If you suspect your cholesterol levels are high due to engaging in the risk factors that contribute to the condition, then a blood test is necessary to determine your status.
Risk factors include:
• Unhealthy eating habits – diets high in saturated fats, meats, dairy products, sugar, and fried and processed foods
• Sedentary lifestyle – lack of physical activity, lots of sitting, limited exercise
• Smoking – lowers the HDL cholesterol, especially in women
• Obesity – being overweight is a contributing factor
• Family history – there is a hereditary component that can run in families
• Age – levels tend to rise as you age
• Race – scientific evidence has shown a correlation between certain races and increased risk
Testing and Treatment
If you’ve received a blood test revealing high cholesterol, there are interventions to lower levels naturally, and apart from medications. A specific treatment plan rooted in holistic and Functional Medicine approaches is designed to tackle each patient’s individual needs. A heart-healthy diet and nutrition plan, weight management and regular exercise are lifestyle changes and one part of the process. These additional methods may be applied to help maintain safe levels, including:
• Electro Dermal Screening