"But here is where people tend to get things wrong," Riechman says.
"LDL serves a very useful purpose. It acts as a warning sign that something is wrong and it signals the body to these warning signs. It does its job the way it is supposed to.
"People often say, 'I want to get rid of all my bad (LDL) cholesterol,' but the fact is, if you did so, you would die," the Texas A&M professor adds. "Everyone needs a certain amount of both LDL and HDL in their bodies. We need to change this idea of LDL always being the evil thing we all need it, and we need it to do its job."
According to the American Heart Association, about 36 million American adults have high cholesterol levels.
"Our tissues need cholesterol, and LDL delivers it," he notes. "HDL, the good cholesterol, cleans up after the repair is done. And the more LDL you have in your blood, the better you are able to build muscle during resistance training."
Riechman says the study could be helpful in looking at a condition called sarcopenia, which is muscle loss due to aging. Previous studies show muscle is usually lost at a rate of 5 percent per decade after the age of 40, a huge concern since muscle mass is the major determinant of physical strength. After the age of 60, the prevalence of moderate to severe sarcopenia is found in about 65 percent of all men and about 30 percent of all women, and it accounts for more than $18 billion of health care costs in the United States.
"The bottom line is that LDL the bad cholesterol serves as a reminder that something is wrong and we need to find out what it is," Riechman says.
"It gives us warning signs. Is smoking the problem, is it diet, is it lack of exercise that a person's cholesterol is too high? It plays a very useful role, does the job it was intended to do, and we need to back off by always calling it 'bad' cholesterol because it is not totally bad."
|Contact: Keith Randall|
Texas A&M University