Cholesterol- how low is too low?

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In summary, cholesterol is an important structural modifier of membrane rigidity, and we synthesize cholesterol in the liver in addition ot dietary intake. Any cholesterol lower than 160 is considered to fall under the category of hypocholesterolemia.
  • #1
355113
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Almost all the information I find online about cholesterol is that one should ideally have a cholesterol level below 200. However, I have also read articles claiming that low cholesterol can also become a health risk. What these articles lack are solid numbers- what is the normal, healthy range of cholesterol? What numbers should one avoid falling under? Wikipedia tells me that any cholesterol lower than 160 is considered to fall under the category of hypocholesterolemia. Does anyone know if this is accurate?

My cholesterol levels have been checked twice (to my knowledge) both times in the past six months when I donated blood. The first reading put my total cholesterol at 115, the second put it at 117. Now, I know that such low levels are considerably below what is typical, but is it low enough to be a serious health concern?

*Yes, I have read the disclaimer. Yes, I intend to bring it up with a licensed medical doctor at my next check-up. I'm just wondering if anyone happens to have any useful information on what level of cholesterol is considered to be too low.
 
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  • #2
http://www.circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/92/9/2365

Here is a bit of research from the American Heart Association on the subject. Very limited data, so this limits conclusions as well.
 
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  • #3
I only know two things about cholesterol- 1) it's an important structural modifier of membrane rigidity (cholesterol increases the rigidity), and 2) we synthesize cholesterol in the liver in addition ot dietary intake.

A quick PubMed search on Hypocholesterolemia turned up 37 review articles, but nothing obviously significant other than a report on embryo development.
 
  • #4
Indeed I can't readily find information on the pathophysiology of hypocholesterolemia. If you are in an otherwise healthy condition and you maintain a varied diet (which I assume when you are donating blood), I would not worry about it.

I saw an article about familial hypobetalipoproteinemia (FHBL), which is characterized by hypocholesterolemia due to a mutation in the APOB gene. The mutation acts semi-dominant, causing lowered cholesterol levels in heterozygous individuals (and extremely low levels in homozygous individuals). The mutation was said to be non-symptomatic in heterozygous individuals http://www.clinchem.org/cgi/reprint/50/10/1725, it would be beneficial to have lowered LDL levels.
 
  • #5
Monique said:
Indeed I can't readily find information on the pathophysiology of hypocholesterolemia. If you are in an otherwise healthy condition and you maintain a varied diet (which I assume when you are donating blood), I would not worry about it.

I saw an article about familial hypobetalipoproteinemia (FHBL), which is characterized by hypocholesterolemia due to a mutation in the APOB gene. The mutation acts semi-dominant, causing lowered cholesterol levels in heterozygous individuals (and extremely low levels in homozygous individuals). The mutation was said to be non-symptomatic in heterozygous individuals http://www.clinchem.org/cgi/reprint/50/10/1725, it would be beneficial to have lowered LDL levels.
Oddly enough, it does not seem to be a familial thing. My father struggles with high cholesterol, and my family history in general would probably tend to be biased towards abnormally high cholesterol rather than low. But yes, I am in generally good health aside from my rather sedentary lifestyle, so I'm not going to panic and consider this to be anything urgent.
 
  • #6
The one time I checked my overall cholesterol, it was 80. I went to see my doctor, and he checked for diseases like cancer and tumor and found nothing. I'm in good to fanstastic health in every other conceivable way, and the doctor doesn't seem to be concerned. My LDL to HDL ratio was very good. My overall cholesterol is just low. I like eating eggs and meat and fast food as much as any other american.

For me the condition is hereditary. My father has always tested below 90, and we don't know the lowest because he often tests lower than the doctor's instrument can measure (which I think is 75 and below). He has high blood sugar (which would become diabetes if he didn't watch his diet so carefully) and is otherwise healthy. His father before him also had very low cholesterol and died of liver failure in his early 70's, without diabetes. My dad's brother is dying of liver failure in his early 60's (though both he and my grandpa abused themselves health-wise). Since cholesterol is produced in the liver, I figure there may be a connection. My brother, on the other hand, has cholesterol above 200.

Anyway, if freakishly low cholesterol does kill my family, it doesn't do it until late, and perhaps not at all if we take care of our livers. I was denied the premium rate on life insurance for my cholesterol alone, which kind of ticked me off, but I seriously doubt it will kill me any time soon, if at all.

-Clint Kimball
karzab1@yahoo.com
 
  • #7
jim mcnamara said:
http://www.circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/92/9/2365

Here is a bit of research from the American Heart Association on the subject. Very limited data, so this limits conclusions as well.

Thanks for that link. It cleared my confusion on the readings. I had a test a few years ago and the result was 5.7, on the high side of normal. My doctor put me on statins. After five days I was so sick and miserable I never touched another. Was about a week before I felt normal again. I am over 70 and in excellent health.
 
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  • #8
Once 15 years ago I was rushed to the hospital because I felt pain in my heart, and when they measured my blood the only thing they could find was that my cholesterol was unmeasurable they called it "below critical".
I don't know if it was the cause of my feeling bad, but if it was, it feels awful.
 
  • #9
Just happened across this forum --

I used to be very, very, very active, and about 2 years ago I started to feel worse and worse, until now, I barely have energy to get up... I went in for a physical about a year ago to make sure that everything was okay and they found that I had very low Cholesterol levels: in the mid-high 90s (don't remember exactly)

Just went in for another physical a year later and found that my cholesterol levels were nearly the same... Have read that it can reduce energy levels and cause some other problems and have read a lot of people say that they live pretty sedentary lifestyles...

Family history is high cholesterol -- I don't know if my cholesterol has ever been checked before. My doctor seems to think that the low cholesterol is very good, but I'm starting to wonder.
 
  • #10
  • #11
Well - apparently what we've been told about good / bad cholesterol is not entirely accurate.

Bad cholesterol: It’s not what you think
It's time to rethink the halo-and-pitchfork view of our blood fat levels

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35058896/ns/health-heart_health/

Two laboratory machines have played a role in perhaps the greatest medical misadventure of our time: the indictment of a villain — LDL cholesterol — with the ultimate crime of the heart, coronary artery disease.

One machine delivered the early, misleading evidence of cholesterol's guilt, and another may have just nabbed the actual killer. And because the killer's likeliest and earliest targets are men, we'd all better pay attention to the new case being made against it.

The first machine, an early prototype of a device called an analytical ultracentrifuge, was crucial to the 1949 discovery of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). These common blood fats would become cemented in people's minds by their angel/devil personas, "good" and "bad" cholesterol. But now the halo-and-pitchfork images seem a little simplistic. And hardly useful.
. . . .
For decades, a tidy narrative about the relationship between LDL cholesterol and heart disease has affected everything from the food we eat to the drugs we take to the test results we track and the worries we harbor. This oversimplified view of cholesterol — that all LDL is the same and that all LDL is bad — has enabled the adoption of an accompanying oversimplified dietary belief, that all saturated-fat consumption raises your risk of heart disease.

The LDL hypothesis has also encouraged many of us to swallow the most-prescribed class of drugs in recent history. Americans spent more than $14 billion on LDL-lowering medications in 2008. Whether that money came out of their own pockets — straight up, or through ever-escalating co-pays — or out of the hemorrhaging U.S. health-insurance system known as Medicare, it's a huge expenditure. Twenty-four million Americans take statins, and the latest health directives suggest that those numbers should be higher. And why stop at grown-ups? Some pediatricians want to start feeding Lipitor (and the like) to kids.

. . . . Hold the bus!
 
  • #12
Richard111 said:
Thanks for that link. It cleared my confusion on the readings. I had a test a few years ago and the result was 5.7, on the high side of normal. My doctor put me on statins. After five days I was so sick and miserable I never touched another. Was about a week before I felt normal again. I am over 70 and in excellent health.

Check with your MD. Get a second opinion from a different, reputable, MD. Many times a person is not put on statins only because cholesterol levels. There are other significant markers which play a role in diagnose, and they are all correlated. Some of the important markers are HDL / LDL , triglyceride levels, clinical signs of CV disease, aggravating factors such as hypertension, diabetes, family history of hearth disease.

Ive heard reputed cardiologists said that we should forget determining total cholesterol and rather, diagnosis should be made on
total Apolipoprotein B . (rather than LDL levels, which only serve as an paroximation of AlipoB )

Anyway, get a second opinion.
 
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Related to Cholesterol- how low is too low?

1. What is cholesterol and why is it important?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in all cells of the body. It is important for the production of hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids, as well as for the structure and function of cell membranes.

2. How is cholesterol measured?

Cholesterol levels are typically measured through a blood test, which measures the levels of different types of cholesterol in the blood, including LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and total cholesterol.

3. What is considered a healthy level of cholesterol?

A healthy level of cholesterol is generally considered to be a total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL, with LDL cholesterol below 100 mg/dL and HDL cholesterol above 60 mg/dL. However, these levels may vary depending on individual risk factors for heart disease.

4. Is it possible to have too low of cholesterol?

While high cholesterol levels are a known risk factor for heart disease, it is possible for cholesterol levels to be too low. Extremely low levels of HDL cholesterol, for example, have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

5. How can I lower my cholesterol levels?

Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking are all important factors in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. In some cases, medication may also be prescribed to lower cholesterol levels.

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