Nowadays, we hear a lot about cholesterol, how its rise leads to heart diseases and different methods of cholesterol management. Are you wondering what is cholesterol and why is it considered dangerous for our heart? Let us go through some facts that will help you learn more about cholesterol management.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is produced in the liver. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that helps in protection of the nerves, required in the production of hormones as well as making cell tissues. It circulates all over the body through the lipid cells in the blood. Cholesterol is also found in foods. These foods include meat, poultry, full-fat dairy products, etc. When one consumes food that are high in saturated and trans fat, the liver produces more cholesterol than needed.
If cholesterol is useful for the body, then why is it considered bad? Well, too much of cholesterol tends to form plaque between the walls of the arteries. This tends to narrow the arteries, making it difficult for the blood to flow through the heart. The plaque can break off from its site and form blood clots. When this clot blocks an artery, that carries blood to the brain, it could lead to something serious called stroke. When this blood clot blocks an artery in the heart, it leads to a heart attack.
What are the Health Complications of Cholesterol?
High cholesterol or hypercholesterolemia, can lead to many health complications of the heart. It can lead to coronary heart disease, heart attack as well as stroke. In many cases, this condition is inherited, that is, it runs in families.
Types of Cholesterol
There is just a single type of cholesterol in the body. The difference lies in the types of carriers or lipoproteins, that help in transporting cholesterol around the body. The two types of carriers or lipoproteins include:
The low density lipoprotein, or LDL is commonly known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol. It helps in transportation of cholesterol to organs that help in building new cells. LDL tends to cause too much cholesterol to stick to the arteries, leading to various complications.
HDL or high density cholesterol
HDL or high density cholesterol helps in picking up the cholesterol from the blood stream and taking it to the liver, where it gets destroyed. This is why HDL is called as the good cholesterol as it helps get rid of excess cholesterol from the blood.
There are triglycerides in the body, that are the most common forms of fat. These fat molecules help store and transport fat in the body. Any extra energy in the body is stored in the form of triglycerides. High triglycerides in the body is not a good thing, as it can lead to heart attack or even stroke.
The approximate total measure of all the cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood stream is called as total cholesterol. The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol is called as total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol ratio.
Symptoms of high cholesterol
There are no specific symptoms of high cholesterol. High cholesterol is usually detected after one suffers from a minor attack or stroke.
Causes of Cholesterol
The liver makes cholesterol naturally in the body. Extra cholesterol enters the body through the food we eat. These foods include high fat containing foods like oil, butter, cakes, etc. Eating too much of high cholesterol foods can lead to narrowing of arteries and heart diseases.
In some people, high cholesterol runs in families. For some, they always suffer from high cholesterol even if they have a moderate diet. Being overweight, living a sedentary life or drinking and smoking too much can also lead to cholesterol management.
Diagnosis for Cholesterol
A blood test can help in diagnosing cholesterol. These tests include LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Managing Cholesterol Levels
As there are no symptoms of high cholesterol, many people remain unaware of the risk they are prone to. In order to keep a check on your cholesterol levels, make sure you undergo diabetes as well as cholesterol level tests regularly. This is especially true in cases, where the patient has suffered from a stroke or attack previously or has a family history of heart diseases.
In order to manage cholesterol, you need to eat a healthy diet. This will keep the blood cholesterol levels in check. Avoid saturated fats, trans fat as well as dietary cholesterol to keep blood cholesterol levels down.
Maintain a healthy body weight as it will help keep cholesterol and triglyceride levels down. Exercise regularly to reduce cholesterol and maintain the body weight. Avoid smoking as it increases the risk of heart diseases.
Those who have high cholesterol, should seek medical advice for its treatment. The doctor will prescribe medications as well as lifestyle changes to control LDL cholesterol.
Live a healthy, active life to keep cholesterol levels in check. This is all about cholesterol management. Speak to your healthcare provider for more details.
Know your friends and foes
- Guidelines for Intake of Complex Carbohydrates
- Guidelines for Intake of Meats and Proteins
- Guidelines for Intake of Fruits and Vegetables
Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: April 10, 2015