To date, cholesterol levels are the most reliable indicator of someone’s risk for heart disease. There are 2 main types of cholesterol. One type, HDL cholesterol, lowers heart disease risk. The other type, LDL cholesterol, raises the risk. LDL cholesterol is believed to increase risk of heart disease by playing a role in the development of plaque in the arteries referred to as atherosclerosis.

5 Negative Effects of Atherosclerosis

  1. Narrowed arteries, leading to less oxygen and nutrients delivered to cells
  2. Hardened arteries, causing a resistance to the natural pulse of the blood flow
  3. Calcium and blood clots build-up on plaque deposits, causing a further narrowing of the arteries
  4. Unstable plaque can rupture, eventually causing a complete shut off of blood flow
  5. Plaque can release blood clots. These clots can become lodged and completely cut off the blood supply of smaller arteries or arteries narrowed by atherosclerosis elsewhere in the body.

When blood flow is restricted to a portion of the body, cells dependent on that supply begin to lack the vital nutrients to carry out their various functions. If blood flow is completely cut off, the cells eventually die. This is a major concern when the diminished blood flow supplies vital organs such as the heart or brain. Cell death in these organs can cause permanent damage or even death.

Managing cholesterol levels can have a positive impact on atherosclerosis risk. Raising HDL cholesterol and lowering LDL are the top priorities of cholesterol therapy. While more markers for heart disease continue to surface, cholesterol remains the top focus of heart disease and atherosclerosis prevention.

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