Your heart is essentially a pump whose function can be affected by several factors, including total blood volume, elasticity of blood vessels, plaque build up in arteries, hormones and nerve stimulation. This site shows how changes in these factors can result in cardiovascular disease or malfunction.This site explains the roles of low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL) in cardiovascular health, cholesterol transportation and plaque formation. It identifies normal cholesterol levels and discusses the risks of high levels of LDL and the benefits of lowering LDL and raising HDL.
Consequences of High LDL. Deposits of cholesterol can bring about atherosclerosis: thickening and hardening of the arteries caused by plaque build up. Atherosclerosis is often associated with conditions such as heart palpitations, congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, and stroke.
Heart palpitations are irregularities in the pumping action of the heart such as rapid beating or skipped beats. If arteries are partially blocked, the cardiac muscle must contract faster and harder to move the same volume of blood. While healthy individuals may occasionally experience palpitations, recurrent heart palpitations can be life threatening.
Congestive heart failure is a decrease in the efficiency of the heart’s pumping ability and results in a decreased volume of blood being moved forward with each heartbeat.
Many contributing factors are associated with congestive heart failure. Some of the common contributors include stress, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and any medical condition that results in heart valve and heart wall damage.
In some cases high cholesterol doesn’t respond well enough to lifestyle changes. This is when cholesterol-lowering drugs become necessary. Go to the High Cholesterol Treatment Options Tool to learn about your treatment options.
Congestive heart failure results in less oxygen and nutrient exchange between body tissues, and poor blood flow alters the fluid dynamics of the body causing fluid buildup in the lungs and swelling of the legs. Over time, if it’s left untreated, the condition can adversely affect nearly every organ in the body.
Coronary heart disease (also called coronary artery disease) is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. In coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries (the vessels that supply blood to the heart) decreases the blood and oxygen supply to the cardiac muscle causing angina, and often resulting in irreversible damage to cardiac tissues and, if left untreated, a fatal heart attack.
Stroke is a ‘brain attack’ brought on by a blockage of blood flow to the brain. Very often this blockage is caused by a piece of dislodged plaque, or a loosened blood clot that originated in an artery affected by plaque, becoming lodged in a brain artery narrowed by plaque build up. This is called an embolic stroke. The bursting of a blood vessel in the brain, or aneurysm, is another common cause of stroke.
Monitoring HDL and LDL Levels. Talk to your physician about regularly monitoring your level of HDL and LDL cholesterol. These levels can give your physician valuable information to help determine your risk for cardiovascular disease.
An effective means of reducing cholesterol is through a combination of exercise, balanced diet, relaxation and, where necessary, medication. Coronary heart disease patients are typically on a program aimed at reducing LDL to a level below 100 mg/dL of blood and raising HDL levels above 35 mg/dL of blood.