Want to Know About Cholesterol?

Being told that you have high cholesterol can cause a big panic, but you do not necessarily need to panic unduly as doctors often only tell one side of the story, i.e., high cholesterol is bad for you. There is, though, rather more to it than that.

Cholesterol is a type of fat that is essential for normal body function. We all need some cholesterol to build and maintain cell membranes (outer layer), controlling passage of molecules across membranes, produce certain hormones, produce bile, help metabolism of vitamins, and to insulate nerve fibres Without cholesterol we could not survive, but, like so many good things, you can have too much.

An excess of cholesterol, or certain types of cholesterol, can lead to narrowing of arteries, and a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

Cholesterol does not float around by itself in the body. It does not dissolve in the blood so is transported around attached to protein, and these protein/fat combinations are called lipoproteins. The main culprits in causing artery and heart disease are the low density lipoproteins (LDL), which is often termed “bad” cholesterol because they carry cholesterol from the liver to cells of the body, including lining cells of arteries where excess can be deposited.

High density (HDL) lipoproteins are termed “good” cholesterol because they take cholesterol away from cells and back to the liver to be broken down and expelled as waste.

There is a third main category of cholesterol known as triglycerides, which mostly produced by the immediate conversion of food after digestion. Energy from food that is eaten and not used immediately is converted into triglycerides and transported to fat cells for storage. A certain amount of triglycerides are therefore present in the blood, but, too much can be a bad thing and increase the risk of heart disease.

When your doctor measures your cholesterol levels he may only be talking about total cholesterol, which is only a rough guide to heart disease risk. The ratio of HDL to LDL is a more accurate pointer. High LDL levels are a bad sign, whilst high HDL levels are good.

“Bad” cholesterol levels can be reduced by attention to diet, not just by reducing fatty meat intake but also by cutting down on sugary foods, and the processed foods that are sold in boxes and bags in supermarkets. This is because only some cholesterol is taken in as such in food; most is made in the body in the liver. A high fat/high refined carbohydrate diet, so typical of Western society, unfortunately tends to cause the liver to manufacture more cholesterol of the wrong sort.

To avoid health problems from too much of the wrong sort of cholesterol you should eat a healthy, natural diet, incorporating plenty of fruit and vegetables. Drinking plenty of water and taking pro-biotic supplements can also help.

By avoiding too much processed or junk food you can help keep your cholesterol levels normal. Oh, and, by the way, exercise helps too!

By Suzana