What is High Cholesterol, and What Are the Causes?
Total Cholesterol levels between 200 to 239 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) is considered вЂњborderline highвЂќ. Levels above 240 mg/dL blood are associated with about double the risk of coronary heart disease as compared with desirable levels вЂ“ below 200 mg/dL.
LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) Cholesterol Levels:
The range of LDL Cholesterol is as follows:
Less than 100 mg/dL: Optimal
Between 100 to 129 mg/dL: Sub-Optimal
Between 130 to 159 mg/dL: Borderline High
Between 160 to 189 mg/dL: High
Over 190 mg/dL of blood: considered Very High
When Low Density Cholesterol is oxidized, or exposed to ‘free radical’ damage, it is capable of causing arterial hardening and clogging (atherosclerosis) and thus blood clots. High levels of LDL combined with poor diet and lack of exercise (poor lifestyle factors) therefore increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
What are the Causes of High Cholesterol (a.k.a. Hypercholesterolemia)?
1. Age and Sex:
From around 20 years old to approximately the age of 65, cholesterol levels in both men and women (with a typical western diet: http://en.scientificcommons.org/1066048) tend to rise. Cholesterol levels remain lower in women until menopause, then rise similarly to men after due to hormonal changes. Some reasons for age related cholesterol increases include variations in diet, hormones, body mass index, and homocysteine levels.
2. Excessive Alcohol Consumption:
Some studies have found moderate consumption of alcohol, especially red wine, can actually increase HDL (high density lipoprotein) levels, or what is referred to as good cholesterol. However, alcohol can also increase triglycerides and blood pressure. Red wine also contains flavonoids and other antioxidants which may have an impact on conditions related to cholesterol. Of course, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to many other risk factors including cardiomyopathy and cardiac arrhythmia.
3. Poor Diet
High levels of saturated (animal) fats, trans fats (hydrogenated vegetable oils), and dietary cholesterol have a significant impact on blood cholesterol levels. This risk is increased when combined with low soluble and insoluble fiber, unsaturated fats found in plant foods, and high in sodium вЂ“ the typical western diet. As a result, a western populations typically suffer from a greater percentage of heart and cardiovascular complications.
4. Heredity (The Impact of Genes on Cholesterol):
Certain genes have an impact on the production of LDL and its removal from the bloodstream.. and their malfunction can negatively impact these levels. In familial hypercholesterolaemia (affecting about 12 million people in the population), these genes stop the liver from removing fat from blood at all.
5. High Mental Stress:
Numerous studies have correlated long term high stress levels with increased bloodstream cholesterol. Hormones released during the ‘fight or flight’ response cause chemical changes within the body and directly impact the mechanisms associated with cholesterol. Also, dietary and lifestyle changes associated with fluctuations in mood can be indirect but powerful risk factors.
Every extra two pounds of weight on your body has been correlated with an increase of one mg per dL of blood cholesterol. Excess weight has also been associated with an increase in LDL and triglycerides, and lower HDL.
7. Sedentary Lifestyle(lack of physical exercise):
One of the greatest current risk factors for high total blood cholesterol levels is a lack of physical activity, or sedentary lifestyle. Modern times have made much of the daily physical work required in jobs of the past obsolete, and is a contributing factor to the alarming rise in cardiovascular health issues. Poor physical condition ties in with numerous other potential factors to vastly increase the risks associated with high levels of cholesterol.