Elevated blood cholesterol

Over time, abnormal blood fats can contribute to atherosclerosis - the buildup of fatty deposits in arteries. Atherosclerosis increases the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke. Triglycerides and cholesterol are the two primary concerns. There are metabolic conditions that may cause unhealthy levels of circulating fats, but such conditions are most often closely related to diet, lack of exercise and other lfestyle factors.

Triglycerides are the form in which most fat exists in food as well as in the body. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance produced mostly in the liver and important in the structure of cells throughout the body as well as the manufacture of various hormones. Cholesterol is a major constituent of the waxy atherosclerotic deposits that gradually can clog up the inside of the arteries, usually raising the blood pressure (hypertension). When these deposit develop in crucial arteries, such as the coronary vessels of the heart, they can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Cholesterol comes in two forms and the balance of the two in the body may be as important as the amount. A diet high in saturated fats can lead to elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol and reduced levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol.

There are two ways cholesterol gets to the blood stream. When large amounts of saturated fats are eaten, in foods such as butter, beef and bacon, the liver produces more cholesterol. Food type is also important: heavy consumption of foods containing high amounts of cholesterol, like eggs, fried foods and rich cuts of beef and pork add to the circulating cholesterol level.

In 1994 it was reported that the link between cholesterol and heart disease is at least twice as strong as previously thought. The new studies say that a 10% fall in cholesterol translates into a cut in the death risk of 50% by age 40, by 40% by 50, and by 30% at age 60. Although there is little benefit seen in the first two years, the reduction in risk is apparent after 5 years. A Scottish study from 1995 showed that lowering one's cholesterol by 20% with a drug reduced the risk of heart attack by 28% even in those who had no previous known heart trouble.
Men who attempt to lower cholesterol levels are more likely to be murdered, have fatal automobile accidents or commit suicide than those who do not.
(G) Very specific problems