Understanding the Importance of Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fatty-like substance that is required for normal body function. Cholesterol exists in various ways in the human body. The low density lipoprotein (LDL) is a type of bad cholesterol, and the high density lipoprotein (HDL) is a type of good cholesterol.
A doctor can perform a fasting cholesterol test that will identify your level of HDL and LDL cholesterol. The tests will show any harmful effects cholesterol might have on your heart. This test should be repeated every five years. Your good cholesterol should be higher than your bad level of cholesterol. If it is, it means your body is effectively able to remove any extra cholesterol. If the bad level of cholesterol is higher than the good level, it means that cholesterol is building up inside of your body. It eventually combines with other substances and creates a plaque on the artery walls. Unfortunately, this can lead to atherosclerosis, which is when your arteries become stiffer and narrower. This reduces your blood flow and can be the cause of heart attacks and strokes.
Some of the cholesterol in your body is from the different foods you eat. The rest gets produced in your liver. Normally, your liver gives the body all the cholesterol it needs, and you will never need more than what your liver makes. The foods you eat give your body the balance of the good and bad type of cholesterol. If you eat a lot of food with saturated fats, it will raise your bad type of cholesterol and lower the good type. To make things worse, some people have hereditary traits that cause them to produce more LDL cholesterol and less HDL cholesterol. Unhealthy levels of cholesterol can build up fast when this is the case.
If you eat more calories than you need, your extra calories will convert themselves into triglycerides, which will be store inside your fat cells to be used later. Triglycerides are much like LDL, and they can add to the plaque build-up in the arteries. The way they actually contribute to creating plaque is not fully known. Researchers are still studying why high levels of triglycerides seem to go hand-in-hand with heart disease.
Heart disease continues to be a primary reason for death. Understanding cholesterol and knowing how good and bad cholesterol can keep your heart healthy will lessen your chances of heart disease. By eating a healthier diet, you can lower your bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks.