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The following article was published in our article directory on February 3, 2011.
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What Is Cholesterol And How It Causes Problems

Article Category: Medical Business

Author Name: James Tien

When you read down the levels of various substances on your blood test result readout, your doctor is likely to only tell you if they are "good, " "bad, " or "fine, " and perhaps what you should do about them. But what is cholesterol? There's a lot more to it than just a number.

Cholesterol is a type of molecule that belongs to a group of molecules called steroids. It makes up a significant portion of the outer membranes of cells, so every animal alive has some in their bodies all the time. Humans usually produce it in the amount they need, but this can be thrown off by genetic predispositions, illness, or a poor diet. Plants have much less than animals, so plant-based foods have lower levels of the substance.

Because the molecule is not very water soluble (like oil, it separates) it is carried through the bloodstream within other proteins, that serve as cargo containers taking it where it needs to go. There are several different forms of carrier molecules, but the ones that your doctor might talk about are called LDL and HDL carriers.

LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein carriers, and HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein carriers. The name refers to how much protein is in the molecule, so LDL carriers actually have more cholesterol than HDL carriers. High levels of LDL carriers has been associated with higher risk of heart disease, which has led to people referring to LDL as "bad" and HDL as "good". Interestingly, low levels of HDL has also been associated with this risk.

Referred to by scientists and medical professionals as hypercholesterolemia, the issue is more serious if your ratio of LDL to HDL is high as well as your total levels being high. More HDL and less LDL are markers of better health, independent of the total number. Effective treatment can sometimes include only diet and exercise, but often, a medication is needed to control the problem.

A problem termed familiar hypercholesterolemia has been found in some people who have issues with their levels. These people naturally produce more of the substance than their bodies need, which means that they will have trouble no matter what they eat. For those affected by this issue, and others for whom eating right is not enough, taking medication (in combination with lifestyle) is the best treatment.

Because hypercholesterolemia is asymptomatic (there are no symptoms) until heart disease has already progressed to a dangerous level, testing for cholesterol is recommended every 5 years for adults over 20 without additional risk factors. Risk factors such as diabetes, family history or obesity may mean that your doctor recommends testing more often. A blood test taken after fasting for 12 hours will give the best indication of your true levels.

About the Author: James Tien is an writer in the health niche. He recommends you check out Red Yeast Rice and Statin.

Keywords: what is cholesterol

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