Lipids & CVD

Lipids, lipoproteins, and cardiovascular disease risk

Cardiovascular disease (CVD):

Although the treatment for heart disease and strokes have significantly improved in recent years, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is still the leading cause of death in the United States. Types of CVD include coronary heart disease (i.e. heart attack) and strokes. Coronary heart disease is the major cause of CVD-related death and is brought upon by narrowing of the coronary arteries from the accumulation of fatty plaques, leading to chest pain or a heart attack. CVD is influenced by both genetic factors and lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise.

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Lipids, lipoproteins, and their relation to CVD risk:

Every cell in your body needs fat and cholesterol to function, but sometimes your body is unable to maintain your blood fat and cholesterol within normal levels. You’ve probably heard of LDL cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol) and HDL cholesterol (‘good’ cholesterol). When LDL cholesterol is high and/or your HDL cholesterol is low, the risk for CVD increases. High levels of triglycerides, or the fat, in your blood also contributes to increased CVD risk. However, it’s much more complicated. The particles that carry fat and cholesterol in your body, called lipoproteins, come in various sizes and densities that may affect heart disease risk differently. Currently, experts are trying to figure out which lipoproteins are most associated with CVD risk.

Diet and your lipids and lipoproteins:

It is known that what you eat can influence lipoproteins and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. However, we still don’t really understand which components of the diet have the greatest influence and how these components work to increase or decrease your risk for disease.

Low-fat diets rich in carbohydrates have long been prescribed to improve health and disease risk, but we now know that carbohydrate, particularly sugars and easily digested carbohydrates, can actually increase your triglyceride levels and lower your HDL-cholesterol. These are both associated with a less desirable lipid profile. In this study, we want to determine whether lowering the carbohydrate in a dietary pattern that is commonly recommended — high in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products —  can improve your triglycerides, HDL-cholesterol, and other lipoproteins. This will give us a better understanding of which types of dietary patterns should be recommended for improving lipids and lipoproteins associated with CVD risk.