Question

Cholesterol

What happens when LDL cholesterol levels go too low?

A Answers (3)

  • AMichael Roizen, MD, Internal Medicine, answered
    Some people can get too low a low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level. If your LDL cholesterol goes below 80, I worry that you are at risk of nervous system and immune system dysfunction. And, it can go that low if you are both taking drugs and watching your diet. The balance of what you should do to make your RealAge (physiologic age) younger is clear: if you have symptoms of severe arterial aging such as angina or inability to walk more than a block or two without having to stop due to calf pain (called intermittent claudication) -- you need to get rid of the plaque by reducing your LDL and raising your HDL cholesterol and not worry about the potential risk of nervous system and immune system dysfunction. But if you do not have symptoms or signs of arterial aging, I do not believe the potential benefits of delaying arterial aging by trying to obtain a LDL level below 80 mg/dL is worth the potential risk of nervous system and immune system dysfunction.
  • AMarcus J. Cox, MD, Cardiology, answered on behalf of Greenville Health System
    Cholesterol is an important building block for cells and natural hormones. It is vital for normal body function and is used to make vitamin D and other digestive substances. It also maintains cell membranes, insulates nerve fibers and is important for metabolism of fat-soluble vitamins. If cholesterol levels are too low, this has also been linked to health issues such as depression, cancer and anxiety.

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  • AJoseph Saseen, PharmD, Cholesterol Management, answered on behalf of National Lipid Association

    In long term studies of patients that are treated with statin drugs to very low LDL values (30-40's), there has not been an association with more side effects. We are born with LDL cholesterol values of 30-40. In patients that are on statin drugs that have very low LDL values (i.e., less than 40) we should not fear an undue risk of side effects, but they should not need such intense therapy. Matter of fact, we need some LDL cholesterol for normal physiologic functions and because of that we are born with an LDL of approximately 30-40.

    For patients who are not on cholesterol lowering drugs that have very low LDL values (<40) there is a chance that they may have another health problem that is causing the very low cholesterol.

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