Why Do We Have High Cholesterol?

Most patients are educated in heart attack symptoms but know very little about cholesterol. Why does a person have high cholesterol to begin with? Are there different forms? Does cholesterol have a purpose?

It is certainly more complex than “high cholesterol will bring about a heart attack.” The newest guidelines recommend not relying on cholesterol numbers alone since the numbers really aren’t science based. The guideline that total cholesterol should be below 200 and LDL should be below 100 came from a study of white males who had heart attacks – this certainly is not a good representation of any other ethnicity or of women. Consideration of combined risk factors, including family history, age, and health alongside cholesterol numbers, was proposed by the American Heart Association (AHA) but has always been part of our individual treatment plans here at Journey of Health.

The unique molecule of cholesterol is used for many functions in the body. First of all, it acts as the base molecule of which many of our hormones are made. Therefore, it should not surprise us that when we go through menopause or andropause (for men), our cholesterol numbers change. If we do not use all our cholesterol molecules for hormone synthesis, then we have extra cholesterol left over. This causes our cholesterol numbers to go up until we adjust to the change. Cholesterol also forms the base molecule for Vitamin D, recycles bile, and is essential to immune function. Additionally, cholesterol is one of the main components of the cell membrane, which allows transfer of material into and out of our cells, and also makes up 50% of our brain. The common side effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs include muscle aches and memory changes. These makes sense since we need cholesterol in both areas to function properly.

Cholesterol also has antioxidant and even antiviral properties. It forms plaques on the inside of our vessels as a mechanism to repair damage that may have been caused by excessive oxidation or high blood pressure.

About 50% of heart attacks do not have high cholesterol markers on the commonly run basic lipid panel. In our clinic, we take the health of your heart and vessels very seriously, protecting it with diet advice, botanicals, and nutrients as needed. We also run several unique lipid panels that identify the specific inflammatory markers associated with plaque buildup and rupture-prone plaque so we can treat those imbalances specifically.

Come visit our clinic to learn more about how you can fix your individual cholesterol challenges.

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