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Heart to Heart Talk

More facts about cholesterol

/ 10:27 AM November 19, 2012

CHOLESTEROL is an important substance that could spell the difference between health, premature death, and maximal longevity, and the more we know about it, the better for us. Here are more questions from our readers we have consolidated over the past year or so.

Do those dangerous energy drinks contain cholesterol?

Energy drinks, according to their manufacturers, contain no cholesterol and trans fat, but they are branded as unsafe because of their high caffeine contents. Two years ago, in this column, we wrote about the dangerous effects of energy drinks, fatal in some cases. Last week, the federal government and the New York Attorney General’s office were investigating the drink “5-Hour Energy” which may have led to 13 deaths and 33 hospitalizations over the past four years. In October 2012, the energy drink called Monster, which contains more caffeine, was allegedly linked five deaths.


Can skinny people have high cholesterol?

Yes, depending on their metabolism and food intake. Our liver normally produces enough cholesterol for our body to function properly. However, eating red meat and dairy products could lead to excess cholesterol blood level, which could block arteries to our vital organs, like the brain, heart, kidneys, legs, etc, and deprive them of oxygen and nutrition. Those who do not exercise are also more prone to develop high blood cholesterol, besides high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer. It is healthier to maintain a normal weight. Blood cholesterol test is recommended starting age 20.

Which contains more cholesterol, a scrambled egg, a filet mignon, or a scoop of ice cream?

While a scrambled egg and red meat have considerable amount of cholesterol and fats in them, a scoop of ice cream has the highest (11 grams saturated fats) compared to the other two. It is best to eat NO more than one egg (170 mg cholesterol) a week. Dairy products are loaded with cholesterol, fats, and carbohydrates (sugars). Legumes (variety of beans, tofu, etc.) are the healthier sources of protein, cholesterol and fats, and vegetables are the best sources of carbohydrates and polyphenols, anti-oxidants.

Can high cholesterol hurt sex life?

Yes, chronic high cholesterol blood level leads to arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and blockage of arteries to the sex organs and pelvis in general. When the sex organ receives less blood, the penile engorgement and erection are less, and so with vaginal lubrication among women. And if the arteriosclerosis also affects the brain, which is actually the largest sex organ, then even the libido is diminished. Among men, erection problem is an early warning of probable heart disease. Low-fat, low-cholesterol diet and daily exercise improve sexual performance.

Is Alzheimer’s caused by high cholesterol?

The amyloid (cholesterol plaques) deposits found in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients on autopsies suggests that chronic high cholesterol could be a culprit, besides genetic defects, in the causation of Alzheimer’s dementia. This is the reason why statins are being tried in the prevention and management of Alzheimer’s.


Why is LDL bad?

Low density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol speeds up hardening of the arteries (the build-up of fatty deposits in the inner wall of the arteries) leading to blockages, increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke, and also cancer. Maintaining the LDL below 100 mg/dL helps in lowering this risk.

Why is HDL good?

High density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) is beneficial because it cleans up the inner wall of the arteries, keeping them open for better circulation. It also carries excess cholesterol back to the liver to lower blood circulating cholesterol. A HDL level of 60 mg/dL or higher reduces the risk for heart attack, stroke, and cancer.

Does too low cholesterol have adverse effects?

Majority of people randomly tested will show either high or normal cholesterol level (around 160 mg/dL). Too low cholesterol level is not that common among the general population. If the cholesterol level is too low, below 100 mg/dL, either from starvation, over-medication, or metabolic illnesses, the person has increased risk for anxiety, depression, decreased libido, and even cancer. But chances are, our cholesterol level is too high or normal.

How can we be “cholesterol-healthy”?

Keeping our cholesterol blood level in check benefits our body in more ways than one. We can accomplish this by lifestyle changes like avoiding trans fats and saturated fats (eating fish and white chicken meat instead of red meats, like pork and beef), eating a lot of vegetables, nuts, and grains, and some fruits, maintaining a normal weight, doing daily physical exercises, and stress management through relaxation and rest. Abstinence from tobacco and disciplined alcohol consumption are parts of a healthy lifestyle.

Does alcohol raise HDL?

Having one to two drinks a day among men, and one drink a day among non-pregnant women, have been found to raise the level of the good cholesterol, HDL. Although red wine is the best, other forms of alcohol, including beer, have also been found to boost the level of HDL to some extent, if consumed as described above. More than that, they start to have the opposite effect, raising the blood pressure and toxicity to the liver begins.

Why are trans fats bad?

Trans fats are commonly used in margarine, shortening, baked goods and snack foods. They are usually described as “hydrogenated oil,” which is another name for trans fats, hiding behind a better sounding name. Trans fats increases the bad cholesterol and lowers the good cholesterol. They hit the consumers with a double whammy! So, when the food label says “no trans fats,” look for hydrogenated oil. Watch out fats too!

What is Lipid profile?

When your physician orders a Lipid profile, the blood specimen drawn from you is examined for Total Cholesterol, Triglyceride, and the subtypes low density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) and high density lipoprotein (good cholesterol), and their proportion to each other. It is a comprehensive overview of your “cholesterol health.” This is needed to determine the proper management of your cholesterol.

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