What is Cholesterol

Too much cholesterol circulating in your blood may lead to angina, heart attack, stroke, and even death

What is cholesterol

So what is cholesterol, this substance that we hear some much about? You can’t actually see cholesterol, but you can certainly see and feel the effects of too much of it.

What is cholesterol and why is it so harmful

Cholesterol is something your body makes to build cell membranes, hormones, and for insulating nerves. It’s also a vital part of the digestive process. The majority of cholesterol found in your body is produced by your body. Only a small portion comes from the foods you eat.

Cholesterol and triglycerides – also called Lipids – are the two major fats in the blood. The problem with cholesterol is that having too much circulating in your blood may cause a buildup of plaque, or blockages, in the lining of artery walls. This may lead to angina, heart attack, stroke, and even death.

Your Total Cholesterol level is comprised of the Low-Density Lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol), High-Density Lipoproteins (“good” cholesterol) and Triglycerides. Since all three make up the Total Cholesterol, it isn’t enough to just get one number.

Each component may have a good or bad effect on your body. More of the “bad” and less of the “good”, or less of the “bad” and more of the “good” can still result in a high or low Total Cholesterol. To really know what’s going on, you need to know the whole picture, which is what you get with a Lipid Panel test.

Bad Cholesterol

It’s not enough to just know the total amount of cholesterol circulating in your blood, as there are several components of cholesterol that have not only negative effects on the body but also positive effects. The “bad” cholesterol are the Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL), which carry cholesterol to the tissues of the body, including the arterial walls. A high level of LDL will increase your risk of developing arterial blockages.

– If you have no history of Coronary Heart disease (CHD) and have fewer than two other risk factors, your LDL goal should be 160mg/dL.

– If you have no CHD but have two or more risk factors your LDL goal is 130mg/dL.

– If you have a definite history of CHD or another atherosclerotic disease you should attempt to keep your LDL to 100mg/dL or less.

Good Cholesterol

Another component of cholesterol, High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL), the “good” cholesterol, carry cholesterol away from the body’s tissues, decreasing the buildup of plaque deposits on arterial walls. Increasing your HDL level can decrease your risk of developing heart disease. A decreased level of HDL may increase it. A good measurement of good cholesterol is the ratio of HDL to the Total Cholesterol in your blood test. The higher this ratio, the better for you.

Physical Exercise: The Way to Wellness

Physical Exercise: The Way to Wellness

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What Can YOU Do About It?

As noted above, the majority of the cholesterol in our bodies is actually produced by the body itself. However, our diets account for the rest. Foods high in cholesterol and saturated fatty acids (steak, butter, whole milk, ice cream, hamburgers, egg yolks) are the primary source of our problems in this area. The good news is that you don’t have to cut them out of your diet entirely. Just eat them in moderation.

If you have a high Total Cholesterol and/or a high LDL reading, it’s possible that you’ve inherited this trait from your parents. There’s nothing you can do about that. That’s why the Health Professionals ask about a history of heart disease in your family, especially before the age of 59 years.

However, it may also be due to your dietary habits. This is a problem you can fix. Even in the face of a family history of heart disease, you can decrease your risk of developing this problem by taking care of yourself: eat a healthy diet, don’t smoke, get plenty of exercise.

Lowering Total Cholesterol & LDL Cholesterol?

  • Eat less fat, especially less saturated fat. Foods rich in saturated fat include whole fat dairy products and fatty cuts of meats
  • Eat less cholesterol. Cholesterol is present in foods of animal origin
  • Eat plenty of fiber-rich, low-fat plant foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and products made from whole grains, and legumes
  • Eat fewer calories if overweight

Raising HDL Cholesterol

  • Stop smoking
  • Get regular aerobic exercise (such as walking, bicycling, swimming, and aerobic dance.) Aim for 20 to 60 minutes of continuous activity, 3 to 6 days per week. Check with your physician before you start an exercise program
  • Eat fewer calories if overweight

Lowering Triglycerides

  • Eat less fat of all types
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Limit sugars such as table sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup and foods rich in these
  • Eat fewer calories if overweight
  • Eat plenty of fiber-rich, low-fat foods, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and products made from whole grains, and legumes
  • Get regular aerobic exercise
  • Improve blood glucose control if you have diabetes

In addition to the above, be sure to see your health professional regularly. If you’re 50 years old or older you should be checked every year or two, or as often as your physician recommends.

Related Topics:

Lowering Cholesterol and Treatment Options
For some people, it is necessary to combine cholesterol lowering medications with changes in life habits to get enough of a reduction in cholesterol …

What Makes Your Cholesterol High or Low?
The level of cholesterol in the bloodstream greatly affects the risk of developing heart disease. The higher the level of blood cholesterol, the greater the risk …

There are many things you can do to prevent heart disease and/or just stay healthy:


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