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Think you know all there is to know about cholesterol? Think again!
October is National Cholesterol Month, an entire month dedicated to raising awareness of the dangers of high cholesterol. We all know that high cholesterol is potentially dangerous as it is a major risk factor for heart disease, but here are 5 things that may surprise you about cholesterol.
Cholesterol is important in the body for a number of processes including the production of many hormones, vitamin D and enzymes needed for digestion. 80% of the cholesterol in the body is produced by the liver and only about 20% of cholesterol in the body comes from the foods we eat. The liver produces more cholesterol when you eat a diet high in saturated and trans fats [i]. Trans fat increases the risk of heart disease by increasing LDL cholesterol levels and lowering the HDL cholesterol in the blood [ii].
The brain has a higher cholesterol content than any other organ. Most of the cholesterol is in the myelin sheaths that surround the axons of nerve cells, which aids the transmission of electrical impulses that control our thoughts, actions and movement. Because cholesterol is too big to cross the blood-brain barrier, the brain is able to make all of its own cholesterol on site [vii].
One of the side effects of taking anabolic steroids or too much testosterone replacement is its impact on heart disease risk. We spoke with our sports and nutrition doctor Hamed Kamali and asked him to explain how steroids can affect cholesterol levels: “There are direct and indirect mechanisms by which steroid use can contribute to the development of heart disease. Anabolic steroids can cause abnormal cholesterol, increasing LDL levels and decreasing good HDL cholesterol levels. Not only is it the unfavourable movement of HDL and LDL that is important but how this affects the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL. This ratio is an indicator of cardiovascular disease risk and although this ratio can return to normal levels after stopping steroids, atherogenesis (fat deposition in the vessel walls) may have already occurred.”
According to HEART UK over half of all adults in England have raised cholesterol, a major risk factor for the development of heart disease and strokes [viii]. There are no obvious telltale signs of high cholesterol in the body. Because of this, it is very important to regularly monitor your levels to make sure you are not at risk. Medichecks' Cholesterol Check is the perfect way to measure triglycerides, LDL and HDL cholesterol levels as well as determining your risk of heart disease based on the ratio of HDL to total cholesterol.
Use Cholesterol Awareness Month to get to know your numbers with a simple Medichecks Cholesterol Check. To get a full picture of your inner health, our comprehensive health screens the Well Woman and Well Man UltraVit tests which are on offer for the whole of October measure a number of key biomarkers including a diabetes check, thyroid function and a full cholesterol check.
[i] Nhlbi.nih.gov. (2018). Questions and Answers on Cholesterol and Health with NHLBI Nutritionist Janet de Jesus, M.S., R.D. | National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). [online] Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/news/2015/questions-and-answers-cholesterol-and-health-nhlbi-nutritionist-janet-de-jesus-ms-rd [Accessed 10 Oct. 2018].
[ii] Foundation, T. (2018). Saturated and trans fat. [online] The Heart Foundation. Available at: https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-eating/food-and-nutrition/fats-and-cholesterol/saturated-and-trans-fat [Accessed 10 Oct. 2018].
[iv] H, M. (2018). Cholesterol and diabetes | Expert advice from HEART UK. [online] Heartuk.org.uk. Available at: https://heartuk.org.uk/health-and-high-cholesterol/cholesterol-and-diabetes [Accessed 10 Oct. 2018].
[v] Gylling, H., Hallikainen, M., Pihlajamäki, J., Simonen, P., Kuusisto, J., Laakso, M. and Miettinen, T. (2010). Insulin sensitivity regulates cholesterol metabolism to a greater extent than obesity: lessons from the METSIM Study. Journal of Lipid Research, 51(8), pp.2422-2427.
[vii] Publishing, H. (2018). Cholesterol, the mind, and the brain - Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/cholesterol-the-mind-and-the-brain [Accessed 10 Oct. 2018].