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Why We're So Concerned About Cholesterol

It's been drilled into us that we need to watch our cholesterol, but what does that mean exactly? Why does it seem like cholesterol is enemy No. 1 when it comes to heart health? What is cholesterol, and is it all bad?

At our practice, board-certified cardiologist Dr. James Kim believes that education is paramount when it comes to cardiovascular health, especially with potentially confusing issues like cholesterol.

The fact is that about 86 million American adults are in the potential danger zone when it comes to cholesterol, and we review what that means below.

Not all cholesterol is bad

Since we routinely refer to high cholesterol as being bad, you might assume that all cholesterol is bad, which is not the case.

Your body relies on cholesterol to produce hormones, repair and build cell membranes, and produce vitamin D. This cholesterol travels through your body on two types of lipoproteins:

  1. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which carry cholesterol and fats. 
  2. High-density lipoproteins (HDLs), which deliver excess cholesterol to your liver for flushing out 

What we want to see is a good balance between your LDLs — the bad cholesterol — and HDLs — the good cholesterol. Ideally, we want your LDLs to be below 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) and your HDLs to be above 50.

So, while we label any combined measurement of 200 mg/dL or higher as high cholesterol, it’s really more about the balance. For example, you can have good LDL numbers, but low HDL numbers, which means there still may be too much cholesterol in your bloodstream even though your numbers are below 200 mg/dL.

Your body produces enough cholesterol

Another point to really consider is that your body produces all the cholesterol it needs in your liver. So, when you add cholesterol to your body through your diet, it’s unnecessary. That’s why you need the right number of HDLs to cart off the excess.

When cholesterol builds in your blood

If you don’t have the right balance of lipoproteins, the bad cholesterol can build up in your blood vessels and create plaque deposits that narrow the space. As a result, your circulation is compromised, and you also run the risk of the plaques creating clots that can break free and lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Not only can high cholesterol lead to heart disease, it’s also associated with:

As you can see, taking steps to improve your cholesterol numbers can potentially save your life.

Staying on top of your cholesterol numbers

Given what we’ve reviewed above, we can’t say enough about the benefits of managing your cholesterol numbers, especially since there are often no warning signs of an imbalance. 

All too often, the first time people realize their cholesterol levels are problematic is when something serious occurs, like a heart attack.

Our goal is to take action far sooner than that. The first step is to see us so we can review your health and take some blood to measure your cholesterol levels. Based on what we find, we devise a heart-healthy path moving forward that changes your cholesterol numbers for the better.

To get started, please contact us at one of our offices in Chula Vista or National City, California, to schedule an appointment.

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