Cholesterol is fat in the blood that generally binds with other substances to form a complex biomolecule. Fat in the blood is not harmful in itself, only if it happens in the wrong place, and is an important component to your cells.
Both the membranes that surround the cells of the body, as well as the internal membranes and myelin sheaths of nerve fibers are also made of fat.
For example, a vitamin D deficiency can cause depressive moods, and clinical depression.
The building blocks of cholesterol are also found in the male sex hormone testosterone and the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone.
This also applies to cortisone in the body. It can be converted to cortisol, which is considered a stress hormone and affects the immune system. In addition, it participates in various metabolic processes.
Good and bad cholesterol
Two values are relevant for blood cholesterol: HDL and LDL. The abbreviation HDL stands for “high-density lipoprotein”. HDL cholesterol is considered a good variant.
The problems associated with an elevated cholesterol level are mainly on LDL, that is, “low-density lipoprotein”. A high LDL concentration not only increases the overall value but is also often accompanied by a low HDL value.
The body needs the HDL form to transport the substance back to the liver.
LDL cholesterol in particular can accumulate in the blood vessels and therefore reduce them. There is a medical term for that: “arteriosclerosis”.
Atherosclerosis can lead to occlusion of blood vessels, especially if that deposit becomes loose and travels to the heart with the bloodstream. There, it can block the blood supply to the heart and cause a heart attack.
Consequences of an elevated cholesterol level
An elevated cholesterol level is known as hypercholesterolemia, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The risk of having a heart attack increases significantly.
An stroke could be due to a circulatory disorder. Fat in the blood is also a risk factor.
During a stroke, the blood supply to part of the brain temporarily deteriorates so much that the cells receive too little oxygen and sugar.
The typical symptoms of a stroke are due to the failure of these brain cells. If the circulatory disorder lasts too long, the affected areas of the brain can die, leading to permanent damage.
Atherosclerosis in the arteries of the legs or other parts of the body can also cause circulatory disorders. Cholesterol particles can accumulate not only in the blood vessels but also in the tendons and on the skin.
Many people who have hypercholesterolemia are overweight. As a general rule, an elevated cholesterol level is due to an unhealthy lifestyle.
Familial hypercholesterolemia, which is an inherited disease, is an exception.
Measure and understand cholesterol levels
Cholesterol level can be determined by testing the blood. Your doctor will take a blood sample and examine it in a laboratory.
The measured value is given in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). Your doctor will consider your personal risk factors when evaluating your blood value.
Various diseases promote the development of arterial calcification and other problems, so previous diagnoses also play a role in evaluating cholesterol levels.
If you have no evidence of an increased risk of cholesterol-associated disease, an LDL value of less than 115 mg/dl is good. However, this limit is 100 mg/dl if you already have risk factors.
Diabetics must follow an even lower threshold
A cholesterol level of less than 70 mg/dl is desirable in this case. The same applies to people with coronary heart disease or chronic kidney damage.
Since there are many different aspects to consider, you should always trust your doctor when evaluating your cholesterol level. He knows you, your diseases, and your risk factors and can better judge the value of your blood.
How to lower it
High cholesterol is bad, but what can you do about it besides taking medicine? The substance is found in various foods, for example in eggs.
Although the relationship between cholesterol in food and in the body in healthy people is now known to be more complex than originally thought, doctors often recommend reducing such foods.
A general recommendation to lower cholesterol is based on a low-fat diet, which avoids animal fats in particular.
More fiber, exercise, and weight loss can also have a positive effect on your health. In addition, you should also take into account your individual risk factors and illnesses and ask your doctor what you can do yourself.
Some supplements also seem to affect cholesterol levels. However, there is still a great need for research in this area.
Red fermented rice is often mentioned as potential cholesterol-lowering food and is also available in the form of dietary supplements.
This special rice contains Monacolin K (Lovastatin). It is the same active ingredient found in various cholesterol-lowering medications.
Side effects include muscle damage, kidney failure, and others. Therefore, you must be especially careful with the red fermented rice or Monacolin K.
Caution is also recommended due to toxic citrinin. Mycotoxin may be contained in fermented red rice.
Hermann Toplak and Jasmina M. Preinreich presented an interim evaluation for the use of red yeast rice-based food supplements in 2013.
The group of patients examined was made up of people who cannot (or no longer want) to take conventional cholesterol-lowering medications.
After the study they found a lower total cholesterol and LDL level. However, side effects were also observed.
Garlic and its relatives (especially leeks and onions) can also have positive effects when cholesterol levels are high. Garlic is primarily used as a supplement to the royal treatment.