Cholesterol and Its Connection to Heart Attack

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Cholesterol is a fatty substance (lipid) which is part of the outer cell membrane in animal tissues. It is also found in the human blood circulation. There are two main sources of cholesterol in the blood namely from foods and liver production.

Food cholesterol comes from meat, chicken, fish and dairy product. After a meal, cholesterol is absorbed by our bowel into blood circulation and gets covered by protein. The cholesterol encased in protein is called chylomicron.

Computer model of cholesterol molecule.Computer model of cholesterol molecule.

Liver can remove cholesterol from the blood circulation system and also it also can make cholesterol and secrete cholesterol into the circulation. After we eat, our liver removes chylomicron from the blood circulation. In between lunch time, liver produces and secretes cholesterol back into the blood circulation.

Good Cholesterol, Bad Cholesterol

Cholesterol is not soluble in the blood except if it joins with special protein called lipoprotein. Cholesterol secreted by the liver into the blood can combine with very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) or high density lipoprotein (HDL).

LDL cholesterol resulted from VLDL cholesterol metabolism in the bloodstream is known as cholesterol ‘bad cholesterol‘ while HDL cholesterol known as ‘good cholesterol‘.

How Does a Heart Attack Happen?

An individual is exposed to the risk of heart attack when he has higher level of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) than HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).

Low density lipoprotein (LDL) causes cholesterol to stick to the artery wall, causing formation of hard and thick material called cholesterol plaque. Gradually, the cholesterol plaque causes the artery wall to thicken and this narrows the artery channel. This process is called atherosclerosis.

Coronary artery supplies blood and oxygen to the heart muscles. When the coronary artery narrowed down by atherosclerosis, it become unable to supply enough blood and oxygen to the heart muscles. Lack of oxygen to the heart muscles causes chest pain, and also blood clot inside the artery causes the artery channel to becpme blocked and brings to deaths of heart muscle. This is when heart attack happens.

HDL cholesterol particle prevents atherosclerosis process by taking the cholesterol from artery wall and then remove them through the liver, and disposed through the bile. It also disrupts the cholesterol accumulation at the artery wall done by the LDL cholesterol particles.

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