The Good, the Bad, and the Aware: Let’s Talk Cholesterol
According to Harvard, the body produces 80% of the cholesterol in the body that is critical for a healthy life (which leaves only 20% coming from food). The waxy, whitish-yellow fat plays a significant role in the production of vitamin D, hormones (estrogen and testosterone), fat-dissolving bile acids, and building blocks in cell membranes. The bad reputation needs to be debunked, especially since it’s National Cholesterol Awareness & Education Month. Cholesterol is not all bad, and we’re here to tell you why.
A few mental images to get this party started…
To give you a mental image of what cholesterol looks like, imagine some bacon grease floating around in a pot of water. Cholesterol would float freely in the body (like the bacon grease) if it didn’t receive assistance from “lipoproteins.”
Here’s another picture for you…
Imagine your bloodstreams as highways, cholesterol is the passenger, and lipoproteins in the car. Cholesterol needs to catch a ride on the lipoproteins to travel through the bloodstream.
Two types of lipoproteins exist to help carry cholesterol through the body:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as the “bad” cholesterol, is what makes up a majority of your body’s cholesterol. This is the type of cholesterol that gives cholesterol a lousy reputation because when there are higher levels of LDL cholesterol, the risk of a stroke and heart disease immensely increases.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as the “good” cholesterol, swoops in to absorb cholesterol and takes it back to the liver. The liver then eliminates it from the body. High levels of LDL can help reduce the risk of heart disease and the chance of having a stroke.
Read more on Cholesterol: The good and the bad.
When the body has too much LDL or not enough HDL, a plaque starts building up on the walls of arteries. The plaque makes it hard for blood to get through as it narrows the arteries, making it hard for the heart and other vital organs to receive blood. This condition is known as Atherosclerosis, and the consequences of blood flow are blocked to the heart can result in angina (chest pain) or even a heart attack.
Take a look at your lifestyle and make sure that you are doing all that you can to prevent these horrendous things from happening. We can blame unhealthy diets, lack of physical activity, smoking, and gaining excessive weight for high cholesterol. You are in control of your life and can improve your numbers by stopping these bad habits.
Some people inherit genes that cause them to have too much cholesterol, known as Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). FH is dangerous and can increase the risk of having premature heart disease.
Changing your diet to foods that assist in lowering LDL levels and increase HDL levels can help reduce the chances of being in harm’s way.
All food is not created equally when it comes to ways to lower LDL cholesterol levels. Some food provides soluble fiber, which can assist by dragging precursors in the GI tract out of the body before slipped into circulation. Polyunsaturated fats directly lower LDLs and some foods contain plant sterols and stanols (which act as a roadblock from absorbing the cholesterol). Not sure what to prepare for your cholesterol health, check out our pantry list of cholesterol supportive foods to help reduce high levels of cholesterol.
…and just one more tip for you!