Raena Morgan: Doctor Jones, would you explain what LDL is?
Dr. Peter Jones: LDL stands for low density lipoprotein, and it's a form of cholesterol that's carried in the blood that we believe is atherogenic. Atherogenic means it causes plaque buildup in the arteries, particularly in those around the heart. And that can lead to a heart attack. LDL cholesterol, we think, is atherogenic because it tends to move cholesterol from the liver and from other tissues into the arteries where the arterial plaque begins to form. We believe that process occurs very early in life. In fact we believe that even ten year olds and adolescents have some buildup of arterial plaque, particularly individuals who are sedentary and don't get a lot of exercise. So this process is extremely slow and carries on all the way through your adult life until you can have quite a substantial narrowing of the inner diameter of the arteries, particularly in those around the heart.
Morgan: Where would it becoming from? I mean if a 10 year old is already starting to build up LDL. From the diet?
Jones: Well, cholesterol comes from the diet. It also comes from naturally synthesized sources. In fact the body is capable of synthesizing a considerable amount of cholesterol a day, perhaps even up to a gram of cholesterol per day.
Morgan: And that's a lot?
Jones: That's a lot! Because most of it's eliminated, but some of it we know, moves through the LDL system, into the arterial plaque, causing this build up of calcified cholesterol rich material that narrows the interior diameter of these vessels that are so critical in transporting blood around the body. A 10 year old or young adolescent who grows up consuming diets that are high in saturated fat, higher in cholesterol, high in energy, so they're consuming more calories that they acutally expend, and that coupled with an inactive lifestyle, a lifestyle of watching TV and playing video games, those people really are at high risk of developing an accelerated accretion for arterial plaque.
Morgan: What about children that are active?
Jones: Activity burns off more calories. It means you have less chance of becoming overweight. And it also tends to control the bodies trafficing of cholesterol, if you will, in a way that minimized plaque buildup.
Morgan: That's really interesting. So any age, any age exercise can positively affect our cholesterol like that?
Jones: Well, yes, and in fact, we think that HDL is such a beneficial lipoprotein, because it can remove pre-existing plaque to an certian extent. So that even in an individual that has developed arterial plaque to a point where their chance of heart disease and a heart attack has gone up, that they can benefit from any kind of intervention whether it's exercise, whether it's a natural health product or whether it's a drug, that can increase, boost up levels of HDL because that will remove cholesterol from that plaque and actually then reduce the risk of heart disease.
Morgan: Excellent. Thank you very much.
Dr. Peter Jones discusses LDL cholesterol, commonly known as the 'bad' cholesterol. Find out why it's known as that and how it can affect you when you're quite young. Also find out how you can get your cholesterol levels in better balance.
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