Low levels of HDL cholesterol, the so-called “good” cholesterol, are the most common lipid disorder in Latin American and Caribbean countries, new research by scientists from Peru and the United Kingdom reveals.
The team performed what is known as a meta-analysis – when a large number of scientific studies are taken on a topic, and their results are analyzed and compared.
“We wanted to find out what type of lipid disorder is more common in these two regions,” said lead author Rodrigo M. Carrillo-Larco, a Wellcome Trust fellow at the Imperial College London School of Public Health and a chronic disease researcher at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, in a press release.
The secret of cholesterol would be in your intestines
The group analyzed 197 studies conducted between 1964 and 2016, which compiled information on blood lipid and cholesterol levels of thousands of individuals in Latin America and the Caribbean.
What they found is a pattern that doesn’t help the region’s heart health. “Since 2005, the most common lipid disorder has been low HDL cholesterol, followed by high triglycerides and high LDL cholesterol,” explained Carrillo-Larco.
Blood cholesterol levels can be important indicators of heart health and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Why is good cholesterol important?
Until now, limited and isolated data were available. The new work aimed to consolidate this epidemiological data so that it could be transformed into public health actions.
By providing regional information on cholesterol patterns, the researchers say the study can “help local public health leaders develop new strategies to reduce rates of cardiovascular disease by improving cholesterol levels in their communities.”
“These efforts could include public health campaigns to increase physical activity by improving walking infrastructure, or to reduce rates of diabetes or obesity by promoting access to healthy foods,” he said. Antonio Bernabe-Ortiz, associate researcher at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, who also led the study.
What is cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in every cell in your body.
Your body needs some cholesterol to produce hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help it digest food. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. But cholesterol is also found in foods of animal origin, such as egg yolks, meat, and cheese.
The bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) deposits excess cholesterol in the arteries, where it can build up and form plaques, increasing the likelihood of heart disease and blood clots. The good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL) carries excess cholesterol back to the liver for removal from the body.
If you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it can combine with other substances in your blood to form plaque. The plaque sticks to the walls of your blood vessels. This accumulation is called atherosclerosis.
The National Library of Medicine explains that if you have large deposits of plaque in your arteries, a piece of plaque can rupture. This can cause a blood clot to form. If the clot is large enough, it can slightly or completely block blood flow in a coronary artery.
If the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle is reduced or blocked, it can cause angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.
Plaque can also build up in other arteries in your body, including the arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood to your brain and extremities. This can lead to problems like carotid artery disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.