Signs you may have ‘sticky’ high cholesterol, as new study identifies risky type of LDL – eat this, not that

Signs you may have ‘sticky’ high cholesterol, as new study identifies risky type of LDL – eat this, not that

It’s common knowledge that “bad” LDL cholesterol and blood pressure are a dangerous mix – but new research shows that a certain type of LDL cholesterol could increase the risk of heart attack and stroke in people who already have high blood pressure (hypertension). High levels of lipoprotein (a), (“sticky” cholesterol), are of particular concern to those with high blood pressure. “We found that a huge amount of cardiovascular risk in this diverse population appears to be due to hypertension,” says lead study author Dr. Rishi Rikhi, associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “Furthermore, people with hypertension had an even higher cardiovascular risk when lipoprotein(a) was elevated.”

People with high Lp(a) and low hypertension did not have an increased risk. But the higher the lipoprotein(a) combined with hypertension, the higher the risk. “The fact that lipoprotein(a) appears to modify the relationship between hypertension and cardiovascular disease is interesting and suggests important interactions or relationships for hypertension, lipoprotein(a) and cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Rikhi. “More research is needed.”

So why is lipoprotein(a) so dangerous? Lipoprotein(a) is the LDL variant made up of protein and fat that carries cholesterol into your arteries. “This protein makes these particles attack artery walls more aggressively than regular LDL,” says cardiologist Dr. Donna Polk, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. People with high levels of Lp(a) are more likely to develop dangerous atherosclerosis (fatty deposits in the arteries) and then a higher risk of peripheral artery disease (clogged legs), aortic stenosis (narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve), and an increased risk of heart attack. Lipoprotein(s) is genetic and can cause a heart attack in an otherwise healthy person (e.g. The The biggest loser star Bob Harper, who had a heart attack at age 52).

Lipoprotein(s) cannot be reduced or managed by lifestyle factors—but there are other ways to help maintain heart health. Continue reading.


A heart-healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, has been shown to be beneficial for heart health. “The Mediterranean diet is more than a ‘diet’. It’s a heart-healthy eating plan,” says the cardiology nurse Teresa Scanlan. “For most people, what’s good for your heart is good for your brain and the rest of your body. The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating based on the traditional cuisine of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Although there is no single dietary definition of the Mediterranean diet, typically is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds and olive oil.”

Healthy fats are another important part of the Mediterranean diet. “They are eaten in place of less healthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats, which contribute to heart disease,” says Scanlan. “Olive oil is the primary source of added fat in the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil provides monounsaturated fats, which have been found to lower total cholesterol and levels of low-density lipoprotein, also known as LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol. Nuts and seeds also contain monounsaturated fats .”

A couple of friends are running on a city street under a city road overpass.  They relax after running and have fun.  Hugging each other.  Walkers

Regular exercise is undeniable for heart health. “Aerobic exercise and resistance training are most important for heart health,” says Johns Hopkins exercise physiologist Kerry J. Stewart, editor. “Although flexibility does not directly contribute to heart health, it is still important because it provides a good foundation for performing aerobic and strength exercises more effectively.”

A combination of aerobic exercise, resistance training, and flexibility exercises are important for heart health because they help raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol (LDL). “Scientific data consistently show that aerobic or cardio exercise not only improves circulation within your heart, but circulation throughout your entire cardiovascular system,” says a cardiac rehabilitation expert. Erik Van Iterson, PhD, MS. “It generally means the ability to circulate the blood in an efficient and effective manner and usually leads to a reduction in cardiovascular risk. Exercise is the simplest form of medicine. It’s something you can control and take into your own hands.”

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Uncontrolled stress can wreak havoc on your heart. “Uncontrolled stress can cause something as awful as broken heart syndrome, cardiomyopathy. So it’s very important to remember that taking care of others means taking care of yourself first,” says cardiologist Leslie Cho, MD.

“People often underestimate the negative effects psychosocial stress can have on their heart health,” he says Nor Aggarwal, MD. “Psychosocial stressors are life situations that cause unusual or intense stress, such as divorce, family conflict, the death of a loved one, a long-term illness, or a natural disaster. Studies have shown that depression and psychosocial stress are associated with heart attacks. In addition, high stress levels negatively affect health recovery after a heart attack. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to traditional and non-traditional risk factors for heart disease in order to maintain a healthy heart. It is also important to recognize that traditional and non-traditional risk factors for heart disease affect women differently than men .”


According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), cholesterol screening should begin at ages 9 to 11 and be repeated every five years. Men aged 45 to 65 and women aged 55 to 65 should be screened every 1-2 years, and those over 65 every year. People at increased risk of heart disease may need to be tested more often.

Testing in a doctor’s office is much better than testing at home. “Home cholesterol tests, in contrast, offer no real benefits,” says Harvard Health. “They don’t give you accurate information about your cardiovascular risk. Nor do they tell you much about the effect of diet or exercise on your cholesterol. Some home tests can also be very tricky to understand. They report cholesterol levels in terms of current national guidelines. Targets and Limits in these guidelines vary depending on other medical conditions, and you may need a doctor to help you understand which standards apply to you. In general, it’s better not to test your cholesterol at home. Let the lab give you the detailed information you need.”

woman stress belly concept

Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is a particularly dangerous type of fat hidden deep in the abdomen, around organs such as the liver and kidneys. Known as “active” fat, visceral fat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, even in otherwise healthy people. “Studies examining the relationship between abdominal fat and cardiovascular outcomes confirm that visceral fat is a clear health hazard,” says Dr. Tiffany Powell-Wileychief of the Laboratory for Social Determinants of Obesity and Cardiovascular Risk at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.

Eating healthy, watching portion sizes, exercising regularly, sleeping, limiting alcohol, avoiding tobacco and managing stress are just some of the ways to effectively shed belly fat. “One of the reasons why excess visceral fat is so harmful could be its location near the portal vein, which carries blood from the intestinal area to the liver,” says Harvard Health. “Substances released by visceral fat, including free fatty acids, enter the portal vein and travel to the liver, where they can affect the production of lipids in the blood. Visceral fat is directly associated with higher total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower HDL (good ) cholesterol and insulin resistance.”

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