If cholesterol had a love child with DNA, it'd look like this

If cholesterol had a love child with DNA, it'd look like this

Summary: There's some super-hero, dynamic-duo, cancer-fighting action in the news from "good cholesterol".

SHARE:
TOPICS: Health
18

This modern art-like image of cholesterol crystals in synovial (joint) fluid was provided by Flickr user euthman.

There was some interesting breaking news last week about cholesterol. A promising study by the University of North Texas Health Science Center indicates that there's some potential for adding small interfering RNA to synthetic high-density lipoproteins (that's "good cholesterol" or HDL) in order to fight cancer tumors.

And you thought the tech world had buzzwords!

Basically, scientists have figured out how to shrink or kill ovarian cancer tumors in mice using a tag team created from a synthetic form of "good cholesterol" and siRNA (kind of like double-stranded DNA, but a special single-stranded sort).

We're definitely going to be keeping an eye out for more information on this topic, although it'll probably be quite awhile before any evidence from yet-to-be-prepared human clinical trials is published.

I think it's really cool that there's some super-hero, dynamic-duo, cancer-fighting action in the news from "good cholesterol," especially since information has come to light in the past few years indicating that there's a disappointing spectrum of quality even in the "good cholesterol".

In plain English, this pretty much means that there's some goody-two-shoes "good cholesterol", and some not-so-good, slacker-not-living-up-to-its-potential "good cholesterol".

Cholesterol made simple

Even without all the nuanced information, cholesterol is one of those subjects people seem to find confusing. There are a lot of acronyms, and it's challenging to keep track of their meanings and implications.

Although a total serum (blood) cholesterol count is a useful number to have, it's even more useful to pay attention to the breakdown of types of lipoproteins (fat/protein combos) in your blood. Lots of folks know that there's a "good" kind and a "bad" kind, but how do you remember which is which? Here's a very simplistic explanation.

It may be helpful to remember that the "good cholesterol" is the HDL cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein. Because it's good and it Helps a person be Healthy, you want the number to be High.

Think of HDL molecules as the garbage trucks that go around and clean up your blood vessels. They take out the trash (the "bad cholesterol") via the lymph system to the liver. Think of your liver as a trash/recycling dump. You want a good number of garbage trucks to keep your city streets (arteries) clean.

Healthy HDL numbers should be 60 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) and above, because those numbers indicate protection against heart disease. Levels lower than 40 mg/dL for men, and less than 50 mg/dL for women, are considered to be a major risk factor for heart disease.

The "bad cholesterol" is the LDL, or low-density lipoprotein. It's the trash cluttering up the blood vessels. When there's too much trash for the trucks, arteries clog up with plaque, making it harder for your circulatory system to work effectively, and increasing the risk of blood clot-related health problems.

LDL is Lousy for your health and should be kept Low (the same goes for VLDL or very low-density lipoprotein). In general, at LDL levels of 130mg/dL or less, there's a reduced chance of stroke or heart attack. Numbers lower than 100 mg/dL are considered to be even better.

If you want a better understanding of this sticky subject, spend some time poking around the American Heart Association's Cholesterol page. Heck, while you're at it, visit their main Conditions page and learn about many interesting aspects of heart health.

How do I "keep an eye" on my cholesterol?

If you're over 20 years of age, it's a good idea to keep an eye on your cholesterol by having it tested at least once every five years (or more often if your doctor advises).

You'll have to fast for half a day or so before having blood drawn, but you'll know more about your blood's total cholesterol, your LDL, your HDL, and your triglyceride (the body's most common fat type) levels. If need be, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes or cholesterol-lowering medications such as "statin" drugs (so-called because many of their names end in the suffix -statin).

The American Heart Association is a great resource for more information about what your cholesterol levels mean.

The same things you hear recommended over and over again for all aspects of maintaining or gaining good health in modern society apply to cholesterol, as well.

Avoid tobacco smoke, maintain a healthy weight, and get your body moving for at least a half hour a day on most days. Talk to your doctor about the dietary modifications that are right for you, and which take into account your total health picture.

Home cholesterol tech

One fascinating technology available today is the home cholesterol monitor. A search on Amazon.com for "cholesterol meter" yielded 43 results. These monitors are a lot like the home blood glucose monitors with which many people are familiar, and which are used by diabetics in the management of their blood sugar levels.

Home cholesterol monitors can help reveal shifts in your cholesterol numbers, and show trends with regards to the effects of medications, exercise, different foods, and so on.

The Amazon reviews for these gadgets are all over the map. Unfortunately, since I don't personally own a cholesterol tester, I can't recommend a specific model -- although your doctor may be able to do so. You should definitely talk to your doctor about it anyhow, because these monitors aren't meant to be a substitute for actual medical attention. These devices are simply a means of gathering and sharing pertinent data with your treatment team.

If I were going to use one, I would probably purchase it at the time I had my official fasting blood test done, and compare results. That would be an interesting benchmark, and maybe clue me in on what kind of accuracy I could expect from the device. What can I say? I'm a geek. Geeks like gadgets and benchmarks.

There's an app for that

A search in Apple's iTunes on the App Store yielded an interesting app which is meant for tracking cholesterol levels. It's available for your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.

Called Cholesterol Log by G.P. Imports, Inc., this program seems like a nice little tracking tool for cholesterol trends. It has a number of graphing options to help you with your analysis, screenshot capability, and a social networking aspect.

There's only one customer review from a guy who seems to like it okay, but it's all of a buck, and probably worth trying.

Let us know how you deal with your cholesterol questions, quandaries, and tracking in the TalkBacks below. Also, if you use or decide to try this app or any of the cholesterol monitors, let us know what you think!

Topic: Health

About

Denise Amrich is a Registered Nurse, the health care advisor for the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute, and a mentor for the Virtual Campus at Florida's Brevard Community College.


Nothing in this article is meant to be a substitute for medical advice, and shouldn't be considered as such. If you are in need of medical help, please see your doctor.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

18 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: If cholesterol had a love child with DNA, it'd look like this

    There is no good or bad cholesterol both types are necessary for staying healthy Read the book "the cholesterol lie" of
    Prof. Dr. Hartenbach from Germany.You can take for granted, that this whole cholesterol charade is an invention from the drugs mafia and the artificial butter industrie to make lots of money.
    the statins that are prescribed to lower your cholesterol
    have so much side effects that your health is deteriorated in a way you would not believe. There exists an article from a worried son over his old father with the title:
    "how to turn a healthy old man into a wreck in 6 month"
    I speak of my own experience in this matter.
    Please look at both sides of the matter.
    Kind regards from a 78 year old man who threw the statins in the carbage can right on time.
    With kind regards geoff.
    g.a.leijenaar
    • RE: If cholesterol had a love child with DNA, it'd look like this

      @g.a.leijenaar@... Thanks Geoff, I'm only 67 with "high" cholestrerol and completely agree with you on the subject! I expect to outlive my lower cholesterol counterparts.
      ejarmul
    • RE: If cholesterol had a love child with DNA, it'd look like this

      @g.a.leijenaar@...
      Exactly!
      People should stop this good/bad artificial argument with nutrition. All things in moderation. If a little of anything is good, lots more does NOT make it better.
      I'm lucky enough to a metabolism that seems to shake off any amount of fat/cholesterol overdose, my sister in contrast has had big, life threatening problems.
      Pay attention to your own body and it's requirements, 'cos no doctor can do that better than you.
      Agnostic_OS
  • There is such a thing as too much of a good thing though.

    Try working in a hospital cardiac catheterization lab.<br><br>The facts are, too much cholesterol goes with clogged arteries. Not that cholesterol is the sole player here. Inflammation is just as much a problem and is synergistic with high cholesterol and high blood glucose levels in totally destroying your circulatory system, and everything that relies on it, which is EVERYTHING.
    Dr_Zinj
    • RE: If cholesterol had a love child with DNA, it'd look like this

      @Dr_Zinj So now the food industry adds extra sugar to the "low cholesterol" foods and that spikes the blood sugar and increases the "bad" fats. Good solution
      ejarmul
  • RE: If cholesterol had a love child with DNA, it'd look like this

    I'll take my advice from my doctor and the research to support it. My recommendation to anyone is try the generic statins, which are now very cheap, to see if they work for you to get to the target range. But eat responsibly as well.
    toler-fes
    • RE: If cholesterol had a love child with DNA, it'd look like this

      @toler-fes
      95% of all statins ever marketed have been pulled for a very problematic side-effect: they kill you.
      The current ones are also showing this trait in epidemiological studies. On the flip side, NO research has EVER shown that LDL cholesterol is bad for you. And yes, that includes CARES and Framingham. (Hint: study authors fudging the numbers to get their desired result does NOT count)
      DeusXMachina
  • RE: If cholesterol had a love child with DNA, it'd look like this

    Don't worry about "high cholesterol" unless you eat poorly and lead a sedantary lifestyle. The worry/stress will kill you first.
    ejarmul
  • RE: If cholesterol had a love child with DNA, it'd look like this

    It often seems like virtually every piece of advice that comes out of the medical world regarding what is or is not healthy in a diet gets retracted 10 to 15 years later. Obviously <i>some</i> of it is right, but so much bad data makes it past the gates that it can sometimes be hard to take any of it seriously or to know how to sort the good data from the bad.

    Part of it seems to be that the studies mostly rely on flawed statistical studies without a good understanding of the underlying chemical or biological reasons behind something.
    SlithyTove
  • RE: If cholesterol had a love child with DNA, it'd look like this

    live happy; die happy!
    jiagebusen
    • RE: If cholesterol had a love child with DNA, it'd look like this

      @jiagebusen
      Exellent advice! But how?
      Dukhalion
  • Triglycerides

    While not discussed in this article, triglycerides should also be kept low (<150mg/dl).

    Alcohol consumption a day or two before the test will raise Triglycerides. A lot of alcohol, a very high Triglyceride level.

    And yes, I found this out the "hard way".
    yonian
  • Sometimes it is easier to ignore the facts!

    http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/568401

    While I agree that high cholesterol may not DIRECTLY cause heart disease; cholesterol is AT LEAST a marker for heart disease risk. In a high risk population (those with a high cholesterol), statins have repeatedly shown benefit including in the all-important and irrefutable 'all cause mortality'. Sorry if this piece of evidence doesn't agree with your pseudo-science.
    NativeFloridian
    • RE: If cholesterol had a love child with DNA, it'd look like this

      @NativeFloridian

      I've been trying to dig around a bit, and, while there are multiple studies that show that statins reduce mortality for those with CHD, the reduction seems to occur regardless of what effect the statin had on lowering LDL levels.

      Meaning that statins (which do MANY things to the body) seem to provide benefit to those already with CHD, but that benefit may have nothing to do with LDL levels.

      It gets more confusing in that HDL is called "good" and LDL "bad", but there are multiple sub-types of LDL some of which are "good" and some of which are "bad" but all of which get lumped in as a single measure of LDL. So it's perfectly possible to have an astronomical LDL reading which is harmless and a low LDL reading which is actually catastrophic.
      SlithyTove
  • RE: If cholesterol had a love child with DNA, it'd look like this

    Both types of cholesterol are necessary for the body to develop and function properly, it's just that too much LDL and VLDL has been proven to be a <a style="text-decoration: none; color: #333333;" href="http://www.healthdietandwellness.com/types-of-heart-disease/arteriosclerosis-the-cause-of-coronary-heart-disease">cause of coronary heart disease</a> in those with elevated levels over a sustained period.
    JSullivan00
  • RE: If cholesterol had a love child with DNA, it'd look like this

    Both types of cholesterol are essential to one's growth and development, however elevated levels of LDL and VLDL have been shown to be a <a style="text-decoration: none; color: #333333;" href="http://www.healthdietandwellness.com/types-of-heart-disease/arteriosclerosis-the-cause-of-coronary-heart-disease">cause of coronary heart disease</a> in those with high levels over a long period of time.
    ubertech305
  • RE: If cholesterol had a love child with DNA, it'd look like this

    If ones LDL, VLD results are high, in many cases, the drugs prescribed could also have bad site effects.<H1><a href="http://www.high-bloodpressure-symptoms.com/high-blood-pressure-symptoms-ethnicity-as-a-risk-factor-in-high-blood-pressure/">High Blood Pressure Symptoms</a></H1>
    raw100
  • atkbtkb 85 iqu

    tkqfwc,pesqbgis78, ecjai.
    bmakrekdw5401-24379013627584456316443885766502