Cholesterol is a soft, waxy compound found in all of cells of the human organism including brain, adrenal gland and nerve cells. Being essential for our organism Cholesterol plays an important role in production of vitamin D, carbohydrates metabolism, synthesis of steroid hormones by the adrenal glands. Cholesterol is a structural component of the membranes and is responsible for the production of reproductive hormones, it also contributes to synthesis of bile acids which are necessary for emulsification and absorption of fats in the small intestine. In the organism cholesterol is produced by the liver cells, another part of cholesterol comes from foods. Cholesterol is found only in animal products such as milk, cheese, eggs, fish, meat and chicken. Plant food does not contain cholesterol.
In the blood stream it is transported in a complex with lipoproteins. There are two different types of lipoproteins:
Low density lipoproteins (LDL)
High density lipoproteins (HDL)
- Low density lipoproteins are usually called bad cholesterol. Usually LDL transport cholesterol from the liver to the cells. Increased amount of LDL may lead to deposition of cholesterol on the surface of the blood vessels causing a build up of plaques.
- High density lipoprotins are called good cholesterol because they help to pick up an extra cholesterol from the blood and bring it to the liver where it is metabolism or eliminated.
Increased amount of LDL may lead to the development of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a main cause of cardiovascular complications such as heart attacks and strokes. The treatment of high cholesterol includes several approaches. The first line of high cholesterol treatment are life style changes such as cholesterol free diet and moderate physical exercises (weight control). If these treatment option are inefficient a health care provider may prescribe hypolipidemic medications:
- Statins (Lipitor, Crestor, Mevacor, Zocor, Pravachol)
- Fibrates (Tricor , Gemfibrozil)
- Nicotinic acid containing drugs and supplements
- Bile acid sequestrants (colestipol, cholestyramine, colesevelam)
Cholesterol absorption inhibitors (Zetia)