Do You Really Know about Cholesterol?

We all have that one person in our family or friend circle that has no clue what those numbers means shown on his cholesterol test results. In fact, this is a true story for all of us. We always Google and try to find out the normal range numbers and start comparing our test results with those numbers. To understand the nature of cholesterol – good or bad, what the high level cholesterol numbers are and how it affects your health in many ways, you must know what cholesterol is.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in your body. This wax-like substance performs in vital bodily functions such as synthesis of vitamin D3, manufacturing hormones and other functions. As per the American Heart Association (AHA), your body produce cholesterol in the liver but you can also get it from the food sources. Full-fat dairy, meat, palm, palm kernels, coconut oil and meat are the important dietary sources of cholesterol.

Though our body can make cholesterol, sometimes it is important to include these foods in our diet in order to support the bodily function. However, moderation should be the key here. Certain foods are high in saturated fats and trans fats which act as a catalyst to trigger the liver for making more and more cholesterol. The result is high levels of cholesterol in the blood causing number of health issues.

Studies have shown a connection between high cholesterol levels and heart ailments however there are a few studies saying there is no such link. This has become a controversy but we cannot deny the fact that high cholesterol levels are not good for human health. Some of the top institutes such as American Heart Association, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute believe that cholesterol does have a vital role in contributing in the onset of heart disorders, stroke and vascular disorders. When high cholesterol levels are coupled with health issues such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and ill habits like smoking; chances of getting health issues mentioned above increase.

To understand cholesterol completely, we need to know how many types of cholesterols are present and how they work in our bodies. Cholesterol is transported throughout the body with the help of lipoproteins which are made up of protein on the inner side and fat on the outer side.  These lipoproteins are of two types – high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL).

HDL, also called as good cholesterol, picks up the excess fat while travelling within the body and carries it to liver where it is broken down and eliminated from the body.

LDL is bad cholesterol because it cannot be scooped out by HDL and it does harm the human body. LDL has a tendency to build up on the inner walls of the blood vessels forming a mass and blocking the flow of blood. Sometimes, the formed mass of LDL detaches itself and flows along with the blood. This is a dangerous situation as it can get stuck anywhere causing life threatening health situations like stroke, heart attack, etc.

Triglycerides are not a combination of fats and proteins such as HDL or LDL. These are formed via the food we consume. Like LDL, triglycerides build up in the inner side of the arteries causing similar health issues.

Who is at high risk for developing high cholesterol levels?

It seems easy to understand who has high levels of cholesterol and who doesn’t. However, the story is altogether different. An obese person might not show abnormally high levels of cholesterol and a skinny person can show. It is because of the factors that cause high cholesterol level. They are:

Heredity

High levels of cholesterol run in the families. If any close relative of you has suffered or suffering from cholesterol levels, your chances of experiencing high cholesterol levels increase.

Smoking

Though smoking is not directly linked to high levels of cholesterol, but it is connected with the onset of heart diseases and stroke. Smoking tobacco affects the effectiveness and working of HDL cholesterol which in turn becomes a reason for heart issues caused by high levels of cholesterol.

Diet

Of course it is one of the major factors in deciding your cholesterol levels. As mentioned above, our body prepares cholesterol within but we also get a good share of cholesterol through foods.