Cholesterol is a fatty, wax-like substance found in the cells of the body, essential for various physiological functions. It plays a crucial role in building cell membranes, producing hormones, and aiding in the digestion of fats. Cholesterol can be classified into low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
- Cholesterol is not inherently bad; it is essential for bodily functions, including brain health, muscle function, and vascular systems.
A study found that the least likelihood of mortality, including cardiovascular risk, was associated with total cholesterol levels between 220 and 240.
HDL and LDL Complexity:
- HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol) are not strictly good or bad; their size and type matter.
- Large buoyant LDL particles can be beneficial, while small dense particles are problematic.
- High levels of HDL may also indicate issues, and excessively high levels may suggest underlying problems.
Triglyceride to HDL Ratio:
- The triglyceride to HDL ratio is a crucial indicator of cardiovascular risk.
- A ratio less than about 1.2 to 1 is desirable; higher ratios, indicate a higher risk.
Apolipoprotein B to A Ratio:
- The Apolipoprotein B to A ratio is a significant predictor of cardiovascular risk.
- Keeping this ratio less than 0.6 is the goal, and it provides more nuanced information than total cholesterol levels alone.
- Soft plaque formation, a more worrisome type, is not detected by standard coronary CT scans that focus on calcified plaque.
- Inflammatory markers like LP-PLA2 (Lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2) and Myeloperoxidase are more indicative of vascular inflammation.
- LP-PLA2 is a specific marker for vascular inflammation and is more sensitive than highly sensitive C-reactive protein (hsCRP).
Soft Plaque Detection:
- Soft plaque detection is crucial for assessing true cardiovascular risk. Current methods like coronary CT scans may miss soft plaque, but newer technologies like the CLEERLY scan are emerging to address this gap.
- The focus should not solely be on lowering cholesterol but on understanding the composition of cholesterol particles and addressing vascular inflammation.
- Lifestyle interventions, including diet modification, exercise changes, and supplements, can impact lipid profiles and reduce inflammation.
- Statin drugs should be considered cautiously and not as a first resort, with attention given to individual risk factors beyond total cholesterol levels.