5 Cholesterol Facts
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance called a lipid, which circulates in the blood. Its general function is aiding in absorption of certain vitamins like vitamin D, as well as bile production to help digest fat, produce hormones estrogen and testosterone and protect cell membranes.
Imagine a cord from a lamp, the plastic coating protects the live wires inside that signal the light to turn on and off; similar to how cholesterol protects our cell membranes that fire nerve signals throughout the body. What would happen if those wires had no coating to protect them? They would become incredibly fragile, with the likelihood of damage occurring quickly, making the light start to flicker and eventually go out all together.
When there is an abundance of cholesterol in the blood, it will build up in the walls of the arteries and start to harden over time. This hardening creates a blockage by narrowing the arteries and either severely reduces blood flow to the heart or cuts it off completely; creating a breeding ground for a heart attack to occur.
Two types of cholesterol
LDL – low-density lipoproteins (bad) are fatty deposits that buildup in the blood and clog arteries. HDL – high-density lipoproteins (good) help the arteries to stay buildup free. High levels of cholesterol might be a marker for high levels of inflammation in the body.
The liver makes 75% of all the cholesterol the body needs and will create more or less depending on what the body needs.
The National Institute of Health has determined that satisfactory and unsatisfactory levels of cholesterol are:
- Levels of 200mg or lower, the potential risk of heart disease is low
- Levels of 200-239, the potential risk is borderline high and risks of heart disease increase
- Levels of 240mg or higher, the potential risk for heart disease is doubled
- LDL levels that are 130 or above, the potential risk is very high for heart disease
Heart disease is linked to high levels of cholesterol in the blood (not derived from food) and is the number one killer of men and women in the United States; with increasing numbers all over the world.
Cholesterol measurements are used in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders that involve excess cholesterol in the blood, lipid and lipoprotein metabolism disorders.
If you are not following a good diet and most importantly, not eating enough fiber and healthy fats, the chance of heart disease affecting you is greatly increased.
A great way to keep your heart healthy is to eat nutritionally sound foods that feed your body with the nourishment it needs to run properly.
Heart disease is caused when artery walls become narrowed or blocked from aging or unhealthy diets. Fatty deposits made up of excess LDL’s (bad cholesterol) are stored in the arteries and harden over time, leading to atherosclerosis.
Once the artery narrows or is blocked, blood cannot flow properly to the heart, leading to many complications that the National Library of Medicine says also involves ‘intestines, kidneys, legs and brain’.
Diets high in lutein have been shown to keep the arteries clog free by reducing inflammation, oxidation of LDL’s and the amount of white blood cells drawn to the area that are responsible for the clogging process.
Cholesterol is Not Just Diet Related
It is not just diet that affects cholesterol, genetics also play a big role. People with family histories associated with heart disease, diabetes, obesity or high blood pressure should be tested regularly.
One of the components that make high cholesterol so deadly is that it is silent with no symptoms, so most might be completely unaware of the ticking time bomb they have inside.
Understanding the underlying factors creating these risks, monitoring your cholesterol levels and adjusting your lifestyle accordingly may help to limit some of those potential threats.