How Lowering Cholesterol can Reduce Heart Disease

cholesterol blood testing
Lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol can reduce your risk of heart disease.

That is the conclusion of a recent meta-analysis, a study that combined data from 49 randomized clinical trials with a total of 312,175 participants.

Cholesterol is a fat or lipid that is found throughout your body. Your body makes cholesterol, which is needed to function properly. Because cholesterol is a lipid, it is transported throughout the body by lipoproteins. Lipoproteins consist of a lipid molecule on the inside surrounded by an outer shell of protein molecules. This protein shell allows lipoproteins to travel throughout the bloodstream.

There are two types of lipoproteins that transport cholesterol in your body: LDL and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Both of these types of lipoproteins are needed for good health. However, the amount of each type of lipoprotein is important.

Too much LDL cholesterol can cause plaque to form in your arteries and blood vessels. Once plaque accumulates in your blood vessels, blood flow may be reduced or blocked and your cells may not receive sufficient amounts of oxygen and nutrients. In contrast, HDL cholesterol prevents or reverses the processes involved in plaque formation. HDL cholesterol carries cholesterol from all over your body to the liver, which metabolizes and removes it from your body.

Lowering your LDL cholesterol levels prevents heart disease because lower LDL cholesterol levels can slow or stop the buildup of plaque in your blood vessels. This occurs whether you lower your LDL cholesterol on your own or by taking cholesterol-lowering medications.

Statins are drugs commonly prescribed by doctors to lower LDL and total cholesterol. They are only prescribed to patients with high cholesterol levels. Statins work by blocking a key enzyme needed to make cholesterol. By lowering the amount of enzyme, less cholesterol is made in your body. Statins often prescribed are simvastatin, atorvastatin, pravastatin and rosuvastatin.

Tips to Lower Blood Cholesterol Levels:

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet that includes fish, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, nuts and beans and vegetable oils
  • Eat less sugar by limiting sodas, sugar-sweetened beverages, sweets and junk food
  • Take your cholesterol-lowering medication as prescribed

Talk to your doctor or cardiologist about cholesterol-lowering drugs. If you cannot take statins, non-statin drugs may be available to help you.

The way you lower your cholesterol does not matter. Once your cholesterol is decreased, your risk of a heart attack and heart disease is reduced.

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