Cholesterol is a pearly, fatty substance which is found in significant amounts in animals but never in plants. It has no calories. Food cholesterol is called “dietary cholesterol.” Dietary cholesterol is not an essential nutrient, because the liver manufactures all the cholesterol that is needed for the body to function. Dietary cholesterol added to the cholesterol manufactured in the body, often leads to excessive build-up that must be excreted or stored. Approximately 40% of dietary cholesterol is absorbed. The remainder passes in the stool. It must be noted that the real culprit in the diet is fat. A diet high in fat causes the body to produce excessive amounts of cholesterol. This excessive leads to plaque formation on arterial walls which, in turn, leads to atherosclerosis and, eventually, coronary heart disease.

Blood cholesterol is called “serum” or “plasma” cholesterol. Blood cholesterol is a combination of cholesterol produced by the liver and through diet.

What Purpose Does Cholesterol Serve?

Cholesterol has three important roles: it is a necessary component of all animal cell membranes; it is used to manufacture steroid hormones; and it is used to synthesize bile acids.

What Are The Dangers Of Elevated Blood Cholesterol Levels?

Arteriosclerosis refers to a group of diseases characterized by a thickening and stiffening of the arterial walls. Atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis are differentiated by the types of arteries which are diseased. Atherosclerosis, the primary arteriosclerotic disease, is characterized by the formation of cholesterol plaques in the medium and large arteries. These vessels include the aortic, coronary, cerebral, carotid, iliac, and femoral arteries. Eventually, this plaque formation reduces the diameter of the artery and causes loss of blood flow. Symptoms arise when the blood flow is reduced. Less blood flow means the oxygen supply is decreased and this in turn leads to dangerous problems such as heart attacks and/or strokes.

What Does Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) Cost Our Society?

CHD remains the major cause of death and disability in the United States and in other industrialized countries. It accounts for more deaths annually than any other disease, including all forms of cancer. In the United States, 5.4 million people are diagnosed with CHD each year. More than 1 million heart attacks occur each year, and more than 535,000 people die as a result. Complications of arteriosclerosis account for about one-third of deaths between the ages of 35 and 65.

Three-fourths of these deaths are the result of CHD. CHD ranks first in terms of Social Security disability expenditures. CHD is second to arthritis in terms of limitation of activity. Also, CHD is second to cancer for total days spent in the hospital. CHD costs the United States more than $60 billion a year in direct care, lost wages, and productivity.

CHD accounts for nearly half of the total mortality rate in the United States for people over 65. This segment of the population is rapidly increasing. (It is expected that during the next 50 years the proportion of people older than 65 will increase from 11% to more than 20% of the total population.)

What Can Be Done About Elevated Cholesterol Levels?

Over the last century, medical science has compiled abundant evidence linking coronary heart disease and elevated blood cholesterol levels. The evidence implicating elevated blood cholesterol in the development of CHD is so consistent and persuasive that public health agencies in the United States and other countries have adopted measures aimed at reducing cholesterol levels throughout their populations.

In November 1985, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, in Bethesda, Maryland, launched the National Cholesterol Education Program. This program’s continuing goal is to reduce the prevalence of elevated blood cholesterol levels in the United States, and thereby contribute to the reduction of CHD.

What Is The DOC Program Doing About Elevated Cholesterol?

In June of 1990, after a considerable amount of research, we introduced the DIABETES OBESITY CHOLESTEROL (DOC) Clinic. Our goal is to reduce the incidence of chronic diseases, including CHD, within our patient population. The prevention of CHD in the population serves two purposes: to improve the quality of life and to reduce the social and economic burden of increased use of the nation’s health care resources. The cholesterol protocol of the DOC Clinic follows the National cholesterol education Program guidelines.

In order to reduce chronic diseases, experts and government agency officials recommend Americans consume less than 30% of their calories as fat. However, in order to achieve significant reduction in the occurrence of chronic diseases and treat patients who are aggressively pursuing wellness, the intake of fat must be reduced to between 5% and 10% of the total caloric intake. High blood cholesterol levels have been related directly to the development of CHD. Lowering blood cholesterol retards the progression of CHD. The DIABETES OBESITY CHOLESTEROL Clinic has concluded, based on scientific evidence, that the elevation of blood cholesterol levels is the major cause of coronary heart disease.

Where Does Your Cholesterol Level Stand?

Total Chol LDL Chol HDL Chol Chol/HDL Ratio Triglyceride Level
Optimal 150 <90 <90 <30 <90
Desirable 150-180 90-119 55-90 <4.0 <150
High 181-200 120-129 >4.0 150-250
Very High 201-239 130-159 >5.0 250-500
Dangerously High >240 <160 >6.0 <90
Low 40-54 >750
Dangerously Low <40