Posts Tagged ‘Diseases’

Role of Cholesterol in Heart Disease

Heart disease is the number one killer of people in the United States. This has led to a plethora of information concerning steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of heart disease. However, what does all of the advice concerning exercise, reducing cholesterol, and new prescription drugs really mean?

One of the major factors that is implicated in the development of heart disease is cholesterol. Cholesterol is a crucial biomolecule without which our bodies could not function. It is a structural component of our cells and the precursor to many vital hormones. However, like all things, an excess of cholesterol is bad. It is what contributes to atherosclerosis, the process by which plaques build up in blood vessels, eventually constricting blood flow and causing heart attacks and strokes.

Not all cholesterol is created equally. There is a distinction between high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) and low-density lipoproteins (LDLs). These lipoproteins are essentially cholesterol “packages” which are what allow cholesterol to be transported in the bloodstream. LDL is known as the “bad” cholesterol. It is primarily synthesized in the liver and delivered through the blood to the rest of the body. HDL is the “good” cholesterol and is transported back to the liver for degradation. Thus, it is best to have high levels of HDL and low levels of LDL.

Cholesterol may either be ingested from food sources or produced inside the body from other chemical precursors. Synthesis of cholesterol in the body occurs by a complex pathway of events that is highly regulated. When too much cholesterol is in the blood, such as from direct ingestion of cholesterol-containing foods, production slows down and cells decrease their absorption of free cholesterol. When cells do not absorb the cholesterol, it is free to stay in the blood and cause plaque buildup in vessels. This is one reason why dietary changes are recommended to reduce risk of heart disease.

However, because a great amount of cholesterol is produced endogenously, dietary change is often not enough. There are now several popular prescription drugs such as Lipitor, Crestor 10 mg pills online, and Zocor, which belong to a class of compounds known as statins. These drugs are inhibitors of the key enzyme in cholesterol biosynthesis, HMG-CoA reductase. Blocking this enzyme significantly lowers the body’s ability to produce cholesterol. In addition, it helps to increase the absorption of cholesterol by cells, removing it from the bloodstream where it can contribute to atherosclerosis.

The role of cholesterols in developing heart disease is complex, but keeping cholesterol under control need not be a complicated process. Studies have shown that simple lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, as well as the reduced ingestion of saturated fats and cholesterol can raise HDL and lower LDL. In addition, there are various natural supplements on the market, such as Vasacor, and several prescription drugs that can also help keep cholesterol levels in balance.