Cholesterol is one of the most misunderstood and miscommunicated topics in the world of medicine. HDL Cholesterol, also known as “good cholesterol”, travels around the blood and absorbs cholesterol and returns it to the liver. HDL stands for high density lipoproteins. But what has HDL got to do with cholesterol, they appear to be 2 different things you might be asking? Good question. Cholesterol is neither water soluble nor blood soluble so therefore cannot float freely in the blood. Because of this, it needs a vehicle to travel around the body so therefore gets bundles up into tiny little spheres called lipoproteins (lipid/fat and proteins).
The NHS website says, “good cholesterol (called HDL) – this makes you less likely to have heart problems or a stroke”.
The Heart.org website says, “HDL carries LDL (bad) cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where the LDL is broken down and passed from the body. But HDL cholesterol doesn't completely eliminate LDL cholesterol. Only one-third to one-fourth of blood cholesterol is carried by HDL.
- Ideally men should have a HDL-C reading greater than 1.0 mmol/L
- Ideally women should have a HDL-C reading greater than 1.3mmol/L
Does having a lot more mean you are healthier? Not really, in-fact some research suggests that if it goes over 2.6mmol/L, then health risk factors increase.
What is cholesterol? Firstly, despite what you have previously believed, cholesterol isn’t all evil and in fact we can’t live without it. Dr Malcolm Kendrick writes in The Great Cholesterol Con, “Why do you think that an egg yolk is full of cholesterol? Answer: Because it takes one hell of a lot of cholesterol to build a healthy chicken. It also takes one hell of a lot of cholesterol to build, and maintain, a healthy human being”. Although there are many more, let us provide just two reasons why we need cholesterol: The vitamin D we get from sunshine is actually created (synthesised) by cholesterol. And we would not be here at all without cholesterol, as it is a building block for most sex hormones.
Lipoproteins are made of fat (a.k.a. lipo) and proteins. Our body produces five main types of lipoproteins. The amount of lipid (fat) in a lipoprotein is what affects its density.
Below is some interesting research published on the National Library of Medicine website, the title of the research itself is very useful, in that it demonstrates how these chronic illnesses are all connected, it was named, “Harmonizing the metabolic syndrome: a joint interim statement of the International Diabetes Federation Task Force on Epidemiology and Prevention; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; American Heart Association; World Heart Federation; International Atherosclerosis Society; and International Association for the Study of Obesity”.
“A cluster of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, which occur together more often than by chance alone, have become known as the metabolic syndrome. The risk factors include raised blood pressure, dyslipidemia (raised triglycerides and lowered high-density lipoprotein cholesterol), raised fasting glucose, and central obesity.
“As a result, the metabolic syndrome* is now both a public health and a clinical problem. In the public health arena, more attention must be given to modification of lifestyles of the general public of all nations to reduce obesity and to increase physical activity. At a clinical level, individual patients with the metabolic syndrome need to be identified so that their multiple risk factors, including lifestyle risk factors, can be reduced”.
“Patients with metabolic syndrome are at twice the risk of developing CVD over the next 5 to 10 years as individuals without the syndrome. The risk over a lifetime undoubtedly is even higher. Furthermore, the metabolic syndrome confers a 5-fold increase in risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus”.
*A syndrome is simply a clustering of factors that occur together more often than by chance alone and for which the cause is often uncertain.