Those of you who are fighting against high cholesterol and working towards lowering your cholesterol generally have many questions about your cholesterol problems. First things first, you should find out exactly what cholesterol is. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance produced in the liver and other cells. It can be found in many food products that we consume on a daily basis such as dairy products, eggs, and meats. However, cholesterol is not always bad because our body needs a certain amount to be able to function properly. Our bodies cell walls, known as membranes, need this cholesterol to produce hormones, vitamin D, and other acids that help you to digest fat. When your cholesterol intake level exceeds the amount of cholesterol needed that is when health concerns begin to develop.
As your cholesterol begins to increase, plaque begins to form in your arteries which narrows the passage way through which blood flows. Over time, plaque buildup will cause your arteries to harden which is one of the major causes of heart disease. If not enough blood and oxygen are able to reach your heart muscle then chest pains may occur. When your blood supply to the heart is completely blocked this will inevitably result in a heart attack.
Although cholesterol may seem completely negative, there is actually a “good” cholesterol among the three different types of cholesterol, also known as lipoproteins, which are present in your body. These types include high density, low density, and very low density. Each specific type depends on how much protein there is in relation to fat. Low density lipoproteins (LDL) is known as the “bad” cholesterol because it can cause plaque buildup along the walls of your arteries. As your LDL level increases so does your risk of heart disease. On the other hand, high density lipoproteins (HDL) is known as the “good” cholesterol and helps the body to dispose of LDL cholesterol. Maintaining an increased level of HDL cholesterol is a good thing because if your HDL levels are low, your risk of heart disease is increased. Lastly, very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) are very similar to LDL because they are made up of mostly fat and not much protein. VLDL carries triglycerides, another type of fat, which is more specifically the excess calories, alcohol, or sugar in your body that is then stored in fat cells in your body.
Generally speaking, there are a wide range of factors that can affect cholesterol levels. Diet is the main factor that contributes to high cholesterol levels. Saturated fat and cholesterol in the foods you eat leads to higher cholesterol levels and cutting back on saturated fats is key in reducing your cholesterol. Being overweight and not getting enough regular exercise is a risk factor for both heart disease and high cholesterol. By losing weight and exercising, most people will see a decrease in their LDL and an increase in their HDL cholesterol levels. Most doctors recommend trying to be physically active for at least 30 minutes per day. Age and gender is another factor in cholesterol levels because as you get older your cholesterol levels will begin to slowly rise. Prior to menopause, women tend to have lower cholesterol levels than men but during post menopause a women’s LDL cholesterol tends to rise. Individuals who have been diagnosed with diabetes need to be able to understand, control, and manage their diabetes in order to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. In some cases high cholesterol can run in your family and your genes may determine how much cholesterol your body naturally makes.
Simply put, becoming informed about your cholesterol is a key step in starting your fight against high cholesterol. Now that you understand what cholesterol is and how it can be caused you have the knowledge to make the necessary changes in your life to start reducing your cholesterol levels.