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What you need to know about cholesterol
Around every third person in Germany has a high cholesterol level. However, many people don't know when to intervene, what consequences high cholesterol can have, or how to deal with it.
The renowned Johns Hopkins Medicine explains about cholesterol. Health professionals highlight some facts that everyone should know in order to better assess their cholesterol levels, because understanding cholesterol is a big part of prevention.
1. Cholesterol is a natural component in the blood
Everyone has cholesterol in their blood because cholesterol has many important functions in the body. For example, it is part of cell walls, serves as a building block for hormones, is a precursor to bile acid and is important for fat digestion and the formation of vitamin D.
Cholesterol is mainly produced in the liver. From there they are released into the bloodstream. However, since cholesterol is not water-soluble, you need a helper to get you through the bloodstream. This task is performed by so-called lipoproteins, which consist of fat and protein.
2. What does LDL and HDL mean?
There are two different types of lipoproteins that are always mentioned with regard to cholesterol: LDL and HDL. HDL stands for “High Density Lipoprotein” and is known as “good cholesterol”. LDL stands for "Low Density Lipoprotein" and is considered "bad cholesterol". While LDL is circulating in the blood, HDL is responsible for collecting excess cholesterol from tissues and the blood stream and returning it to the liver.
3. When does cholesterol become harmful to health?
Too high a cholesterol level is an important risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. The total cholesterol value minus the HDL cholesterol results in the so-called non-HDL cholesterol value (also: LDL cholesterol value). "It's the most important cholesterol number you need to know to predict cardiovascular risk," said Johns Hopkins cardiologist Michael Blaha.
4. Which cholesterol level should be aimed for?
According to the German Heart Foundation, healthy people who have no additional risk factors for cardiovascular diseases should have a total cholesterol value of around 200 mg / dl (5.2 mmol / L) and an LDL cholesterol value of around 115 mg / dl (3.0 mmol / L) are aimed for. For smokers and people with overweight, high blood pressure and / or lack of exercise, the values should be lower. If you already have heart disease or diabetes, the total cholesterol should be below 150 mg / dl (3.9 mmol / l) and the LDL cholesterol below 70 mg / dl (1.8 mmol / l). "The LDL cholesterol target is more important," emphasizes the German Heart Foundation.
5. How can you lower cholesterol?
The Johns Hopkins experts recommend eating as little saturated and as many unsaturated fatty acids as possible in the diet. This is because unsaturated fatty acids, for example in nuts and olive oil, and polyunsaturated fats, for example in fish and rapeseed oil, can help keep cholesterol levels low.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, statins are a good drug treatment. They are designed to protect people with high cholesterol from a heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases because they slow down the progress of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). While statins are consistently recommended in the United States, they are in constant discussion in Europe due to possible side effects.
6. Cholesterol levels don't just affect heart health
A study by Johns Hopkins University showed in over 5,000 men that healthy cholesterol prevents prostate cancer. In men with low or normal cholesterol, the risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer was reduced by almost 60 percent.
7. How do you determine your cholesterol level?
A rapid cholesterol test is available in the pharmacy. You usually have to prick your fingers and put a drop of blood on a test strip. This test provides the first clues. A more precise value can be obtained through a test in the doctor's office. If you belong to the risk group, you can think about buying your own cholesterol meter. (vb)
For more information, read the article: Lowering Cholesterol - The Best Tips and Home Remedies.
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Cholesterol: 5 Truths to Know (accessed: February 12, 2020), hopkinsmedicine.org
- Rüdiger Meyer: Cholesterol-lowering: Statins in constant discourse; in: Ärzteblatt, 2019, aerzteblatt.de
- Deutsche Herzstiftung: Cholesterol: How can heart patients protect themselves? (Call: February 12, 2020), herzstiftung.de