Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Cholesterol facts
- What is cholesterol?
- What are LDL and HDL cholesterol?
- What determines the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood?
- Does lowering LDL cholesterol prevent heart attacks and strokes?
- How can LDL cholesterol levels be lowered?
- What are the current NCEP cholesterol treatment guidelines?
- Why is HDL the good cholesterol?
- What are triglycerides and VLDL?
- What medications are available to lower cholesterol, lipids, and triglycerides?
- Is lowering LDL cholesterol enough?
- Pictures of Cholesterol Levels - Slideshow
- Take the Cholesterol Quiz
- Lowering Cholesterol 15 Tips Slideshow Pictures
- High Cholesterol (Hyperlipidemia) FAQs
- Find a local Internist in your town
What determines the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood?
The liver manufactures and secretes LDL cholesterol into the blood. It also removes LDL cholesterol from the blood by active LDL receptors on the surface of its cells. A decrease number of liver cell LDL receptors is associated with high LDL cholesterol blood levels.
Both heredity and diet have a significant influence on a person's LDL, HDL and total cholesterol levels. For example, familial hypercholesterolemia (hyper= more + cholesterol + emia= in blood) is a common inherited disorder whose victims have a diminished number or nonexistent LDL receptors on the surface of liver cells. People with this disorder also tend to develop atherosclerosis and heart attacks during early adulthood.
Diets that are high in saturated fats and cholesterol raise the levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood. Fats are classified as saturated or unsaturated (according to their chemical structure). Saturated fats are derived primarily from meat and dairy products and can raise blood cholesterol levels. Some vegetable oils made from coconut, palm, and cocoa are also high in saturated fats.
Does lowering LDL cholesterol prevent heart attacks and strokes?
Lowering LDL cholesterol is currently one of the primary public health initiatives preventing atherosclerosis and heart attacks. The benefits of lowering LDL cholesterol are:
- Reducing or stopping the formation of new cholesterol plaques on the artery walls
- Reducing existing cholesterol plaques on the artery walls and widening the arteries
- Preventing the rupture of cholesterol plaques, which initiates blood clot formation and blocks blood vessels
- Decreasing the risk of heart attacks
- Decreasing the risk of strokes
- Decreasing the risk of peripheral artery disease
The same measures that decrease narrowing in coronary arteries also may benefit the carotid and cerebral arteries (arteries that deliver blood to the brain) as well as the femoral arteries that supplies blood to the legs.
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