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Cholesterol Functions and Risks: What Values ​​Are Dangerous?



Updated August 16, 2019, 3:11 pm

Cholesterol is considered a concern when it comes to the risk of heart and vascular disease. At the same time, it also fulfills vital functions in the body. But what exactly is cholesterol? And: is it good or bad for your health?

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You don't see it, you don't feel it – and suddenly there's a surprising diagnosis from a doctor: cholesterol levels are too high. This means that lipid levels in the blood are not correct. This finding should not be neglected: If cholesterol levels are permanently increased, arteriosclerosis is threatened, in the worst case a heart attack or stroke. On the other hand: basically a fatty substance in your blood does not have to be bad.

Professor of Cardiology at Leipzig University Hospital, Professor Ulrich Laufs, explains what cholesterol is all about: "Cholesterol is found in all mammals and is needed to build the cell wall and source material to produce the hormone, vitamin D or bile needed for digestion. fat. "

When Is Cholesterol Dangerous?

Cholesterol itself is neither good nor bad, the expert claims. Each cell of the body can produce matter if needed. It becomes dangerous only if there is too much cholesterol in the blood over a long period of time and it deposits in the walls of the vessels.

Dishes lose elasticity. At the same time, there is a narrowing of the vessels and thus reduced blood flow through the affected vessels and circulatory disorders.

This process is called arteriosclerosis. This increases the risk of vascular disease, which can lead to stroke or heart attack, among other things.

"Because cholesterol is insoluble in water, it is transmitted in the blood in combination with proteins," Laufs explains. Only then can the substance reach the necessary places in the body. "The result is so-called lipoproteins, which distinguish, among other things, low-density lipoproteins, LDL cholesterol and high-density lipoproteins, HDL cholesterol," says the expert.

Low density lipoprotein (LDL) is responsible for transporting cholesterol from the liver to different tissues. High levels of LDL mean that a lot of cholesterol is circulating in the body and can accumulate on the walls of the vessels – especially if they are already damaged, for example due to hypertension or smoking.

In contrast, HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol ideally allows excess cholesterol to be transported from the arterial walls back to the liver and then excreted via bile. This is why HDL is often referred to as "good cholesterol". Therefore, low HDL cholesterol may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Several factors can affect cholesterol

According to Professor Dr. Laufs, LDL cholesterol in healthy subjects should be a maximum of 130 mg / dl (2.6 mmol / l). For people with other risk factors or patients with stress, the recommended values ​​are lower.

"However, by deviating from the recommended limits, it is not only considered as isolated cholesterol, but always an overall picture of the patient," explains Laufs. This would make it easier to identify other potential risk factors. These include smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, physical inactivity and obesity.

In addition, a disorder of genetic fat metabolism may be present. In people with genetically caused elevated cholesterol levels, in most cases, the liver does not have enough receptors to which LDL cholesterol must anchor in order to be removed from the blood. As a result, it builds up in the blood over time, causing the cholesterol level to rise.

What Can You Do With Elevated Cholesterol?

Suppressing high cholesterol levels requires a holistic lifestyle change. The German Heart Foundation recommends that you quit smoking, eat healthier, lose weight and, above all, include more exercise in your daily life.

Endurance sports such as jogging, biking, walking or hiking have a particularly positive effect – preferably at least 30 minutes a day.

According to the German E.V. Nutrition Society, instead of high fat foods with high monounsaturated fatty acids, you should eat better vegetable foods high in polyunsaturated fatty acids.

High fat animal foods, finished products, fried and sweet baked products should be avoided. It is ideal to include more vegetables, fruits and whole grains instead of eating.

Regular check-up with a doctor is recommended

"If these changes do not reduce cholesterol sufficiently, prescribing may be required, in this case statins," Laufs says. They reduce the body's production of cholesterol.

Basically, you need to check your cholesterol level once a year during your examination. If they are elevated and a lifestyle change or even medication is required, then Laufs recommends that values ​​be checked twice a year.

The information in this article does not replace personal advice and treatment by a physician.

Sources used:

  • German Society for the Control of Dyslipidemia and Its Effects DGFF (Lipid-League), eg: Cholesterol Advisor
  • German Heart Foundation: Cholesterol Lie
  • Bornheim Diagnostic and Preventive Medicine Clinic: Cholesterol – What Is It?
  • German Nutrition Society, eg: blood cholesterol – low LDL and high HDL cholesterol reduce the risk of cardiovascular events
  • Federal Nutrition Center: Cholesterol: Mito Egg for breakfast

Among other things, the hormone gland promotes cell growth and affects our weight. Defective iodine or selenium can malfunction. With the right diet, you can counteract the deficiency.


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