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Cholesterol is one of the most important substances in the body. It does many things to keep us alive. It is the main precursor in the synthesis of many crucial hormones including vitamin D3 (the sunlight hormone); the steroid hormones cortisol, cortisone, and aldosterone in the adrenal glands; and the sex hormones progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. It is so important that the body even has a mechanism to reabsorb it and recycle it. Proper cholesterol levels are crucial for the body to function.
Cholesterol levels can either be too high or too low. Either way, cholesterol imbalance can have many detrimental health effects. There are two types of cholesterol: high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). In terms of heart disease risk, HDL cholesterol is considered “good,” while LDL is considered “bad.” Total cholesterol is the sum of HDL and LDL cholesterol, which is considered your total cholesterol number.
Ideally, your cholesterol levels should be within the following ranges:
- Total cholesterol should not be greater than 220 mg/dL and should not be lower than 160 mg/dL. (180 mg/dL is a preferable low limit.)
- Good HDL cholesterol should not be less than 40 mg/dL.
- Bad LDL cholesterol should not be more than 100 mg/dL.1
The health effects of low total cholesterol levels are often overlooked, but they can be just as troublesome as high cholesterol.
Symptoms of low cholesterol include:
- Depression and anxiety – There is compelling evidence that shows that low cholesterol levels can be used as a marker to identify depression and anxiety.2 Additionally, after childbirth a woman’s cholesterol drops dramatically. It is now suggested that low cholesterol may be a causative factor in triggering postpartum depression.
- Mental impairment – Symptoms may include suicidal ideation, increased aggression and propensity to violence, and impaired brain function.
- Stroke – Although it is well known that high cholesterol can cause a stroke, it is equally true that excessively low cholesterol can also trigger a stroke.
- Vitamin D deficiency – Vitamin D is actually formed by exposing cholesterol found in the skin to sunlight. Cholesterol is the basic building block of vitamin D in the human body. Therefore, low levels of cholesterol can lead to vitamin D deficiency. And once you’re deficient in vitamin D, the body’s ability to absorb calcium becomes impaired, something which leads to brittle bones, fractures, and osteoporosis.
- Cancer – Vitamins A, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins transported by cholesterol. These powerful antioxidants fight free radicals in the body, and offer protection against cancer. When cholesterol is low, these vitamins also become deficient in the body, entertaining the possibility of an increased risk of cancer.
- Heart disease – Studies are now showing that women with excessively low levels of cholesterol have a greater risk of mortality from heart disease than women with high cholesterol levels. This suggests that cholesterol should always be in balance for optimal health: never too low and never too high.
Health effects of high total cholesterol include:
- Atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke – Cholesterol build up can lead to hardening and narrowing of the arteries, which restricts blood flow to vital organs such as the heart and brain.
- Insulin resistance – When you repeatedly eat a diet high in refined carbohydrates, the cells become overwhelmed by excess glucose, and they stop responding to insulin. Insulin accumulates in the blood. High insulin levels then trigger the production of cholesterol and triglycerides. As cells become more resistant to insulin, cholesterol and triglycerides continue to go up, increasing your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and blood vessel disease.
Note: Cholesterol levels that are either too high or too low can also occur without the presence of any visible symptoms. Untreated cholesterol imbalance can negatively impact physical and mental health, and potentially reduce your lifespan.
The following tests and procedures may help you find out whether you have high or low cholesterol, or other chronic conditions that may affect cholesterol levels:
- Online Self-assessments – Self-assessments, such as the Candidiasis Self-assessment and the Magnesium Assessment, can help you determine some of the root cause(s) of your chronic conditions.
Lipid Profile – This is a blood test that measures your good HDL cholesterol, bad LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. Talk to you doctor about conducting a Lipid Profile blood test. Looking for a good doctor? Click here for help!
Additional Information about Cholesterol
- Cholesterol Imbalance Overview
- Common causes of cholesterol imbalance
- Natural and alternative treatments for cholesterol imbalance
- Dietary and lifestyle recommendations that may help in the treatment of cholesterol imbalance
- Conventional or prescription medications used in the treatment of cholesterol imbalance
- Cited Sources and Additional Reading for cholesterol imbalance
Article ID: 258