Cholesterol is a waxy substance that helps to support the organs in the body. It can be obtained from foods like meat, eggs, poultry, fish and dairy products and is also synthesized by the liver.
There are two types of cholesterol, one is “good” and the other is “bad.” The good cholesterol is called high-density lipoprotein aka HDL, and the bad cholesterol is called low-density lipoprotein aka LDL. HDL is “good” because it is mostly made up of proteins and little cholesterol. It also prevents the attachment of LDL to the arterial walls; it removes LDLs from the walls and transports them to the liver for elimination.
LDL is “bad” because it is mostly made up cholesterol and very little protein. The main reason why LDL is bad for you is that if the liver cannot break it down or the amount of LDL becomes too high, the blood vessels become flooded with them. This is when the LDL cholesterol begins to stick to the arterial walls. When LDL outnumbers HDL, it attaches to the walls of the arteries because there is not enough HDL to remove it. This leads to narrowing and hardening of the arteries due to the formation of atherosclerotic plaques causing a condition called atherosclerosis.
When should you check your cholesterol levels and what do the results mean?
Physicians recommend checking cholesterol levels at 20yrs and every 5 years after. Those with risk factors that include obesity, diabetes, hypertension, smoking and/or having a family history of high cholesterol should have their levels checked sooner.
In healthy individuals with no risk factors for heart disease, their overall cholesterol level should be less than 200 mg/dl: the LDL level should be less than 160 mg/dl, the HDL should be above 40 mg/dl, and triglycerides should be below 150mg/dl. If you have risk factors, like smoking, or high blood pressure then LDL levels should be less then 100mg/dl.
How can you control and achieve a good cholesterol level?
The best way to improve or control your cholesterol levels is by modifying your diet, which should consists of very little saturated fats. Eat palm oil, or coconut oil type foods, butter and even dark chocolate, baked goods, sardines, etc. in moderation. Eating vegetables, fruits, fat free yogurt, garlic, whole grain bread, and cereal help to lower your LDL. Vegetable and olive oil products and certain fish, like salmon, help raise HDL. One of the best ways to both lower LDL and increase HDL is EXERCISE.
Checking your cholesterol levels, eating right and exercising are crucial for maintaining your health. It is very important that you do not waste time or take your health or life for granted. If your cholesterol levels have not been checked see a physician as soon as possible.
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