High Blood cholesterol: Glossary of terms

1. Atherosclerosis - A type of “hardening of the arteries” in which cholesterol, fat, and other blood components build up on the inner lining of arteries. As atherosclerosis progresses, the arteries to the heart may narrow so that oxygen-rich blood and nutrients have difficulty reaching the heart.

2. Carbohydrate - One of the three nutrients that supply calories (energy) to the body. Carbohydrate provides 4 calories per gram - the same number of calories as pure protein and less than half the calories of fat. Carbohydrate is essential for normal body function. There are two basic kinds of carbohydrate - simple carbohydrate (or sugars) and complex carbohydrate (starches and fiber). In nature, both the simple sugars and the complex starches come packaged in foods like oranges, apples, corn, wheat, and milk. Refined or processed carbohydrates are found in cookies, cakes, and pies.

  • Complex Carbohydrate - Starch and fiber. Complex carbohydrate comes from plants. When complex carbohydrate is substituted for saturated fat, the saturated fat reduction helps lower blood cholesterol. Foods high in starch include breads, cereals, pasts, rice, dried beans and peas, corn, and lima beans.
  • Fiber - a nondigestible type of complex carbohydrate. High-fiber foods are usually low in calories. Foods high in fiber include whole grain breads and cereals, whole fruits, and dried beans. The type of fiber found in foods such as oat and barley bran, some fruits like apples and oranges, and some dried beans may help reduce blood cholesterol.

3. Cholesterol - A soft, waxy substance. It is made in sufficient quantity by the body for normal body function, including the manufacture of hormones, bile acid, and vitamin D. It is present in all parts of the body, including the nervous system, muscle, skin, liver, intestines, heart, etc.

  • Blood Cholesterol - Cholesterol that is manufactured in the liver and absorbed from the food you eat and is carried in the blood for use by all parts of the body. A high level of blood cholesterol leads to Atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.
  • Dietary Cholesterol - Cholesterol that is in the food you eat. It is present only in foods of animal origin, not in foods of plant origin. Dietary cholesterol, like saturated fat, tends to raise blood cholesterol, which increases the risk for heart disease.

4. Coronary heart disease - Heart ailment caused by narrowing of the coronary arteries (arteries that supply oxygen and nutrients directly to the heart muscle). Coronary heart disease is caused by atherosclerosis, which decreases the blood supply to the heart muscle. The inadequate supply of oxygen-rich blood and nutrients may damage the heart muscle and can lead to Chest pain , Heart Attack, and death.

5. Fat - One of the three nutrients that supply calories to the body. Fat provides 9 calories per gram, more than twice the number provided by carbohydrate or protein. In addition to providing calories, fat helps in the absorption of certain vitamins. Small amounts of fat are necessary for normal body function.

  • Total Fat - The sum of the saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats present in food. A mixture of all three in varying amounts is found in most foods.
  • Saturated Fat - A type of fat found in greatest amounts in foods from animals such as meat, poultry, and whole-milk dairy products like cream, milk, ice cream, and cheese. Other examples of saturated fat include butter, the marbling and fat along the edges of meat, butter, and lard. And the saturated fat content is high in some vegetable oils - like coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils. Saturated fat raises blood cholesterol more than anything else in the diet.
  • Unsaturated Fat - A type of fat that is usually liquid at refrigerator temperature. Monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat are two kinds of unsaturated fat.

Monounsaturated Fat - A slightly unsaturated fat that is found in greatest amounts in foods from plants, including olive and canola (rapeseed) oil. When substituted for saturated fat, monounsaturated fat helps reduce blood cholesterol.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid (fish oil) - A type of polyunsaturated fat found in seafood and found in greatest amounts in fatty fish. Seafood is lower in saturated fat than meat.

Polyunsaturated Fat - A highly unsaturated fat that is found in greatest amounts in foods from plants, including safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oils. When substituted for saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat helps reduce blood cholesterol.

6. Gram (g) - A unit of weight. There are about 28 g in 1 ounce. Dietary fat, protein, and carbohydrate are measured in grams.

7. Hydrogenation - A chemical process that changes liquid vegetable oils (unsaturated fat) into a more solid saturated fat. This process improves the shelf life of the product - but also increases the saturated fat content. Many commercial food products contain hydrogenated vegetable oil. Selection should be made based on information found on the label.

8. Lipoproteins - Protein-coated packages that carry fat and cholesterol through the blood. Lipoproteins are classified according to their density.

  • High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) - Lipoproteins that contain a small amount of cholesterol and carry cholesterol away from body cells and tissues to the liver for excretion from the body. Low levels of HDL are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Therefore the higher the HDL level, the better.
  • Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) - Lipoproteins that contain the largest amount of cholesterol in the blood. LDL is responsible for depositing cholesterol in the artery walls. High levels of LDL are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease.

9. Milligram (mg) - A unit of weight equal to one-thousandth of a gram. There are about 28,350 mg in 1 ounce. Dietary cholesterol is measured in milligrams.

10. Milligrams/Deciliter (mg/dl) - A way of expressing concentration: in blood cholesterol measurements, the weight of cholesterol (in milligrams) in a deciliter of blood. A deciliter is about one-tenth of a quart.

11. Protein - One of the three nutrients that supply calories to the body. Protein provides 4 calories per gram, which is less than half the calories of fat. Protein is an essential nutrient that becomes a component of many parts of the body, including muscle, bone, skin, and blood.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: June 20, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD