Cholesterol is a steroid alcohol found in all the cells of our body. It is usually mistaken as fat because it appears waxy but in truth, it is considered as an alcohol. It is needed by our cells in order for them to function well. Our body uses cholesterol to make various hormones, vitamin D, and certain substances that aid the body for proper digestion. Cholesterol can be found in some of the food we eat.
The levels of cholesterol in our body show an overall picture of our health. Although this is not used for diagnosing diseases, it is useful in determining current and long term risks of heart attacks and strokes.
For better understanding of cholesterol, we must bear in mind that although it is a vital component of cells, uncontrolled levels of it is detrimental to our health. To give us a more vivid illustration, think of blood as water and think of the cholesterol as oil. And when these are put together, they obviously do not mix. In order for the cholesterol to pass through the bloodstream, it must be carried by small packages that are medically known as lipoproteins. As their name implies, lipoproteins are made up of fat (lipo/lipid) and protein. There are two types of lipoproteins that transport cholesterol throughout our body:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
We commonly call this type of cholesterol as the bad cholesterol. We can also call it as the lousy cholesterol for better recollection (L=LDL ; L=lousy). The normal value is less than 100 mg/dL (milligrams of LDL cholesterol per deciliter of blood). Continued high levels of blood LDL cholesterol lead to the buildup of cholesterol that attach on the walls of the arteries, called plaques. These plaques eventually block the bloodstream or in other cases, get dislodged and flow along the bloodstream and impede circulation once it gets stuck on smaller blood vessels. The higher the level of lousy cholesterol is, the greater is the risk of developing a heart disease. Avoiding a diet with high carbohydrates and processed foods is a great way of decreasing LDL levels.[ad#co-1]
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
We call it as the good cholesterol. For easy recollection, we can call this the happy cholesterol (H=HDL; H=happy). A good cholesterol value of greater than 39 mg/dL indicates a healthy heart. HDL cholesterol is the kind of cholesterol we want to keep elevated. It has the task of carrying cholesterol from all over our body back to the liver where it would be processed for excretion. The higher the level of happy cholesterol is, the lesser is the chance of having a heart disease. Eating more saturated fats and proteins, and eating fewer carbohydrates will increase HDL levels.
The following also appear on a routine lipid profile and are noteworthy to be discussed:
Triglycerides are fats in the blood that are being stored and burned for fuel or energy. The normal value should be less than 150 mg/dL. High levels of triglycerides indicate that the body is not using them for fuel. Coronary artery disease has been linked to high triglyceride levels in the blood. Therefore, to avoid this disease, triglyceride level should be decreased. A diet low in carbohydrates and fats can dramatically decrease triglyceride levels.
Total Blood Cholesterol is a measure of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and other lipid components of the blood. The recommended value should be less than 200 mg/dL.
It is important to have normal levels of both LDL and HDL cholesterol to keep the body healthy and free from risks of getting cardiovascular diseases as well as other complications. Decreasing our cholesterol levels also decreases the dangers of plaque build-up. A high blood cholesterol level does not usually manifest symptoms of the condition unless it has accompanying diseases. That is why regular lipid profile examinations are advisable. Do not hesitate to approach your physician when results show abnormalities. Or better yet, have a lifestyle check. Don’t wait for your cholesterol results to deviate from the normal values before you live a healthy way of life.[ad#afterpost]