Cholesterol is necessary for certain functions of the body. Although it has such a bad reputation when it comes to health, cholesterol is critically important to the human body. Having no cholesterol would be fatal. It comprises the muscles, hormones, bone structure, brain, and whole body. It is one of those elements that hold the body together. Without blood, we die. In the same way, without cholesterol, we also die. That’s how important it is. Our bodies actually make cholesterol.
However, there is a slight misconception behind what people say as good and bad cholesterol. Cholesterol has only one formula and that is C27H46O. However, we often hear it said that HDL is “good” cholesterol and LDL is “bad” cholesterol. What is this slight misconception about?
HDL, which stands for High Density Lipoprotein, is not even cholesterol. And thus, cannot be classified as good cholesterol. The same goes with LDL, which stands for Low Density Lipoprotein.
Cholesterol, as well as fat, is not water soluble. They cannot be transported by the water in the body. HDL and LDL are the lipoproteins that carry fat and cholesterol in our bloodstreams. However, to make things simpler, LDL is termed as the bad cholesterol and HDL as the good cholesterol.
Bad Cholesterol (LDL)
LDL is more often called “bad” cholesterol. It is known as bad cholesterol because high levels of this in the body can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries resulting in stroke and heart disease. The plaque buildup can also cause atherosclerosis, a condition where arteries get clogged and make them less efficient and less flexible. It can also potentially cause peripheral artery disease which is plaque buildup in the artery supplying blood to the legs.
Good Cholesterol (HDL)
HDL cholesterol is known as “good” cholesterol because having high levels can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. HDL absorbs cholesterol from the different parts of the body and carries it back to the liver. The liver’s role is to process the cholesterol out of your body.
It’s important to have healthy levels of both types of cholesterol. Cholesterol level is derived from the sum of your HDL and LDL, usually measured in milligrams per tenth-liter (mg/dL) of blood. It should stay below 200 mg/dL, specifically, LDL cholesterol should be no more than 130 mg/dL and HDL should be at least 35 mg/dL. It would be preferable and healthier for the heart to have higher amounts of HDL as it can be a protection against heart disease.
It is ideal to have your cholesterol levels checked at least once every five years when you reach the age 20. Risk levels do not usually rise until later in life. However, several lifestyle changes have contributed to less healthy heart health. Women generally have lower bad cholesterol levels than men until they reach menopause which is not until about age 55. Heredity can also play a factor when it comes to cholesterol production since the genes somehow dictate how much cholesterol the liver can make.
If you have other health risks such as diabetes and your habits do not really enhance your health, limiting the level of LDL cholesterol would be beneficial for you in the long run. LDL cholesterol can heighten the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and other diseases. If you have high LDL cholesterol, certain lifestyle changes should be considered. Eating healthy fiber, oatmeal, olive oil, fruits, whole grains, and vegetables can be a good way to regulate the levels of LDL cholesterol. Quitting smoking as well as exercising regularly and losing weight can also be helpful. Exercise boosts the levels of HDL which is good for the body and lowers LDL levels. It is recommended that you exercise at least two to three hours a week to have a consistent improvement on your cholesterol levels. You do not necessarily have to overwork your body in an effort to lose weight or bad cholesterol. Consistent physical activity is better than doing a strenuous one time exercise. Avoiding trans-fat in canned foods and commercially baked products such as cookies could also be helpful.
LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol are both necessary in the body. It is healthy to have these in levels that are recommended and not excessive especially for LDL. Most of the time, medication and supplementation can help us reduce levels of bad cholesterol. But why wait for the time when we need medication? You can always start today to make sure you are on the right track in keeping your cholesterol levels in check. You can decide whether to have your levels checked or simply begin doing regular exercise, eating healthy, and avoiding processed food. The path to a healthy life usually starts with baby steps. You just have to start doing it and one day you can thank yourself for doing so.∎
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