Cholesterol is a lipid molecule that is synthesized by the human body on a daily basis. It is an essential component of cell membranes, and serves as a precursor for the biosynthesis of steroid hormones, bile acids and Vitamin D. From a dietary perspective, the major sources of cholesterol are derived from animal fats; such as egg yolk, cheese, beef, pork, and shellfish.
Consuming a large array of saturated fats on a regular basis can lead to the development of high blood cholesterol. This condition is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease, because it promotes plaque formation. By time, the lumen diameter of various blood vessels narrows. This could in turn obstruct blood flow, resulting in the formation of a heart attack, stroke or peripheral vascular disease.
Lipid profiling is a commonly used panel of blood tests in clinical practice. This investigation allows the identification of lipid level abnormalities, which are often symptomless.
A typical lipid profile test result consists of a detailed range of total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). The higher the levels of LDL and serum triglycerides, the greater the risk of coronary artery disease.
Hence, they are commonly referred to as the ‘bad cholesterols’. On the other hand, increased levels of HDL are thought to remove cholesterol particles from the blood and aid in transporting the latter back to the liver for degradation. Thus, it is known as the ‘good cholesterol.’
In order to promote cardiovascular health, one should aim to maintain a total serum cholesterol level in a range of 2.0 to 5.0 mmol/L. This target can be achieved through incorporating a variety of lifestyle modifications that revolve around the reduction of behavioural risk factors, such as prolonged periods of physical inactivity, tobacco smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol.
Moreover, it is vitally important to consume a balanced diet that is low in saturated fats. Foods that contain more than 5g of total fat per 100g of product should be avoided. In specific cases whereby serum cholesterol is excessively high, a tailored drug treatment plan should be discussed with a family physician.