We typically hear that we need to keep our cholesterol low in order to be healthy, but have you ever wondered if it’s also possible to have a cholesterol deficiency? Keep reading to find out what happens when your cholesterol is too low.
Can cholesterol be too low?
The first thing you need to remember is that there are different types of cholesterol, and the different types have different effects on your health.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the different types of cholesterol include:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): this is commonly known as “bad” cholesterol, and it can contribute to fatty tissue buildup in your blood vessels.
- Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL): this type of cholesterol carries triglycerides in your blood. High levels of triglycerides combined with high LDL cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.
- High density lipoprotein (HDL): often referred to as “good” cholesterol, and it carries “bad” cholesterol away from your arteries and into your liver, where it can be broken down and eliminated.
Cholesterol plays different roles in the body, and it’s also the precursor to many hormones. Having too much cholesterol is known as hypercholesterolemia, and it leads to significant health risks. However, having too low cholesterol isn’t ideal either, and the condition is known as hypocholesterolemia.
Low cholesterol causes
Some of the most common causes of too low HDL cholesterol include:
- Unbalanced diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Thyroid disorders
- Severe illness or injury
Low cholesterol risk factors
As we mentioned above, there are different posibles reasons why your cholesterol is too low. Certain factors can increase your risk of too low cholesterol, including:
- Family history
- Poorly managed chronic disease
- An unhealthy lifestyle
- Excess weight
Low cholesterol symptoms
Unfortunately, symptoms of low cholesterol are quite non-specific and hard to distinguish from other diseases. In many cases, people don’t realize that they have low HDL cholesterol until they have suffered a health complication. Some of the signs of low HDL cholesterol can include:
- Premature heart disease
- Heart attacks
- Peripheral polyneuropathy in patients without diabetes
- Xanthelasma, or yellowish plaques on the eyelids
- Xanthomata, or yellowish bumps that can appear anywhere in the body
- Enlarged liver and/or spleen
- Enlarged tonsils and/or lymph nodes
However, the best way to detect low HDL cholesterol is by getting your routine tests done. Cholesterol tests can easily detect whether your cholesterol is too low or too high, giving you the opportunity to get this problem under control.
What happens if good cholesterol is low?
In most cases, your doctor will want your HDL levels to be higher than other types of cholesterol. Low cholesterol is much less common than high cholesterol.
According to the Mayo Clinic, risks and side effects of low good cholesterol include:
- Hemorrhagic stroke
- Preterm birth and/or low birth weight
According to Harvard Health Publishing, research suggests that having lower levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol is better for your health. Patients who take statins, which are medications used to lower cholesterol, can develop certain side effects such as muscle aches. However, these side effects are associated with the medications rather than the cholesterol levels.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to increase your good cholesterol. According to the Cleveland Clinic, you can boost your good cholesterol by:
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Becoming more active
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Not smoking
- Managing your blood sugar and blood pressure
Along with getting cholesterol tests regularly, you should also get other routine tests — including STD screening — in order to maintain your health. You can learn more about at-home STD testing and other reproductive health topics at STDWatch.com.
Cholesterol Numbers: What Do They Mean - my.clevelandclinic.org
Cholesterol level: Can it be too low? - mayoclinic.org
LDL cholesterol: How low can you (safely) go? - health.harvard.edu
Give Your Good Cholesterol a Boost - health.clevelandclinic.org