But is it possible for your cholesterol to be too low? Yes. While less common, low cholesterol can affect your health as well.
Cholesterol levels that are considered too low:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: lower than 40 mg/dL
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: lower than 40 mg/dL
Why is cholesterol important for your body?
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy type of fat that can be found in your blood, and is necessary for your body to maintain the structure and fluidity of cell membranes. It’s also responsible for synthesizing sex hormones, vitamin D, and bile, which your body needs for digestion.
Types of cholesterol
Cholesterol is divided into different types based on the relative proportions of fats and protein in lipoproteins.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
- Total cholesterol
- Non-HDL cholesterol (total cholesterol minus HDL cholesterol)
- Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol
Good vs. bad cholesterol
- HDL cholesterol is called “good” cholesterol because it absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver, thereby reducing your risk of heart diseases and stroke.
- LDL cholesterol is considered “bad” because increased levels can narrow your arteries and cause blockages, increasing the risk of heart diseases and stroke.
What are the dangers of low cholesterol?
Although the emphasis is generally on reducing cholesterol levels, cholesterol levels that are too low may also be problematic, although research is still inconclusive.
- When LDL cholesterol levels are too low, it can lead to increased risk of health issues such as cancer, depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular diseases. Too low levels of LDL cholesterol during pregnancy may increase the risk of having a baby with low birth weight or a preterm baby.
- When HDL cholesterol levels are too low, it can increase the risk of atherosclerosis, which is when your arteries harden, as well as cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke.
What causes low LDL cholesterol levels?
Low LDL cholesterol levels may be caused by genetic factors (inherited diseases) or acquired factors (diseases, medications):
- Familial combined hypolipidemia
- Anderson’s disease (chylomicron retention disease)
- Certain types of cancer such as leukemia, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and myeloma
- Certain types of anemia such as thalassemia and pernicious anemia
- Chronic infections such as tuberculosis
- Chronic infestations such as schistosomiasis
- Malabsorption (defective absorption of nutrients in the gut) as seen in celiac disease, giardiasis, and pancreatic diseases
What causes low HDL cholesterol levels?
Low HDL cholesterol levels may be caused by:
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