CHAPTER 1: Why Measure Cholesterol, and What Does It Mean
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that the body uses to build cells, make hormones, and synthesize vitamins. The liver produces the cholesterol required by the body, and it can also be obtained through diet, mainly from animal products. Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream, attached to proteins. These cholesterol-protein units are called lipoproteins.
Understanding HDL, LDL, and Triglycerides
Common cholesterol panels measure three types of lipids in your blood: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides. Here’s what each of these lipids does:
- HDL cholesterol: HDL is often referred to as the “good cholesterol” because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream and protects against cardiovascular diseases. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
- LDL cholesterol: LDL is commonly referred to as the “bad cholesterol” because it contributes to the buildup of fatty deposits or plaques in the arteries. High levels of LDL cholesterol increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and heart disease.
- Triglycerides: Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood. They are used by the body for energy, but high levels can contribute to the hardening and narrowing of arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Why measure Cholesterol levels
Measuring cholesterol levels is essential because high cholesterol can lead to the buildup of fatty deposits or plaques in the arteries. This increases the risk of age-related conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, and heart disease. Regular cholesterol testing helps assess heart health, estimate the risk of cardiovascular disease, and monitor the impact of lifestyle changes on cholesterol levels.
High cholesterol, specifically high levels of LDL cholesterol, increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and heart disease. On the other hand, high levels of HDL cholesterol protect against cardiovascular diseases.
Low levels of HDL cholesterol may increase the risk of heart disease and premature death. Extremely low levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are not associated with any health risks but may indicate an underlying medical condition.
Several studies have shown that maintaining optimal cholesterol levels can contribute to a longer and healthier life, while high cholesterol levels can lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and reduced life expectancy.
Interpretation of Cholesterol test results and optimal ranges
Cholesterol test results provide insights into an individual’s risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. The optimal ranges for cholesterol and triglycerides are as follows:
Total cholesterol: 125-200 mg/dL
LDL cholesterol: <130 mg/dL
HDL cholesterol: >45 mg/dL for men; >55 mg/dL for women
Triglycerides: <150 mg/dL
CHAPTER 2: How to Optimize Your Cholesterol: A Biohackers Guide
Reaching and maintaining optimal cholesterol levels could potentially add decades to one’s life.
Eating Heart-Healthy Foods plays a significant role in managing cholesterol levels.
a. Reduce Saturated and Trans Fats: Saturated fats found in red meat and dairy products increase total cholesterol. Worse still, trans fats — often labeled as “partially hydrogenated oils” in store-bought cookies, crackers, and cakes — can raise your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.
b. Increase Soluble Fiber: Foods rich in soluble fiber can lower your LDL cholesterol. Good sources include oatmeal, kidney beans, brussels sprouts, apples, and pears.
c. Add Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can boost HDL (“good”) cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease. Salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseeds and walnuts also offer these beneficial fats.
d. Reduce Sugar Consumption: The consumption of sugar (sucrose, high fructose corn syrup) increases plasma levels of triglycerides, LDL and apoB, and reduces plasma levels of HDL-C and apoA. The removal of sugar reverses each of these.
2. Behavioral Change:
a. Quit Smoking: Quitting smoking improves your HDL cholesterol levels. Moreover, the benefits happen quickly: Within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate decrease.
b. Reduce Alcohol Intake: While moderate alcohol use has been linked with higher levels of HDL cholesterol, the benefits aren’t strong enough to recommend alcohol for anyone who doesn’t drink already. Too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure, and strokes.
3. Dietary Supplements:
Supplements may play a role in helping you to optimize cholesterol, however, make sure to discuss this with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.
- Plant sterols and stanols
- soluble fiber (psyllium)
- omega-3 fatty acids
- coenzyme Q10
Moderate and High-Intensity Cardio has been shown to be the most effective form of exercise to improve HDL function and overall lipid profile.
5. Consistent Testing:
a. Identification of Baseline Levels: The first step in managing cholesterol is to know your starting point. This initial test, such as the SiPhox Health Panel, provides the baseline for future tests, allowing you and your doctor to track changes over time.
b. Early Detection of Potential Issues: Regular blood testing can catch elevated cholesterol levels before they lead to health issues such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or heart disease. By identifying these changes early, you can take proactive measures to lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk.
c. Monitoring the Effectiveness of Interventions: If you’re making lifestyle changes or taking medication to manage cholesterol, regular blood testing can show whether these strategies are working. If your cholesterol levels aren’t improving, or if they’re getting worse, you may need to adjust your strategies.
CHAPTER 3: Optimal Cholesterol Levels: Expert Opinions
Cholesterol test results provide insights into an individual’s risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. While it is dependent, on the individual and their family history, below are general ranges that can help you interpret your Cholesterol results.
The optimal ranges for cholesterol and triglycerides are as follows:
- Total Cholesterol: 125-200 mg/dL
- LDL Cholesterol: <130 mg/dL
- HDL Cholesterol: >45 mg/dL for men, >55 mg/dL for women
- Triglycerides: 150 mg/dL
What do the experts say?
Dr. Robert H. Eckel- former President of the American Heart Association
- “LDL cholesterol is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The optimal LDL cholesterol level is less than 100 mg/dL for most people. However, for those at higher risk, such as those with a history of heart disease or diabetes, an LDL level of less than 70 mg/dL is often recommended”
Dr. Patrick Moriarty- Director of the Atherosclerosis and LDL-Apheresis Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center
- “While focusing on lowering LDL cholesterol, we shouldn’t neglect HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol. For men, an HDL level of 40 mg/dL or higher is protective against heart disease, while for women, it should be 50 mg/dL or higher”
Dr. Peter Attia- Founder, Early Medical
- “If you want to stop atherosclerosis, you must lower the LDL particle number.”
Disclaimer: If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on the SiPhox Health Hub are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.