A Healthy Cholesterol Level Isn’t Always Lower

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Cholesterol
Last Reviewed 02/25/2014

A Healthy Cholesterol Level Isn’t Always Lower

For years, the medical community has demonized cholesterol. As soon as a patient’s total cholesterol is above 220, or their LDL cholesterol is above 130, physicians are quick to whip out the prescription pad and prescribe statin medications. 

But the fact is, cholesterol isn’t the enemy and your body requires cholesterol in order to function properly. In fact, research has found that low levels of cholesterol, 160 ml/dL or less, can result in a loss of sex drive, depression, cerebral hemorrhages and more.

Why You Need A Healthy Cholesterol Level, Not Low Cholesterol

  • Generating sex hormones. Cholesterol is the parent molecule needed for your body to manufacture the necessary sex hormones, including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. This is why many people who are on cholesterol-lowering statin medications suffer a loss of libido.

  • Creating vitamin D. Cholesterol is a vital building block your body needs in order to convert sunlight into vitamin D.

  • Digesting foods. Enzymes in your body convert cholesterol into the bile salts needed for digesting foods and absorbing fats. That’s why inadequate levels of cholesterol can lead to digestive issues.

  • Cell creation. Cholesterol is a major part of the membranes surrounding the cells in your body and the structures within them. 

  • Fighting infection. Cholesterol is essential for fighting off infections, by helping to neutralize toxins. That’s why cholesterol is found at the site of inflammation—which leads many doctors to erroneously believe cholesterol is causing inflammation, when in fact it’s there to fight it.

  • Brain function. The brain requires a healthy cholesterol level in order to make brain cells. When cholesterol drops to around 160 mg/dL, brain function—including memory—declines.  In fact, low levels of cholesterol have been linked to depression and suicide.

The bottom line is that lowering your overall cholesterol numbers could do more harm than good. Instead, you want to ask your doctor to test your cholesterol subtypes, which is a far more important measure of cardiovascular health.

Now it’s your turn: Did any of these cholesterol facts surprise you?

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