All About Cholesterol

By Mia Brader

What Is cholesterol?

Though there is a misconception about how unhealthy cholesterol is, it is not only important, but it is vital to the production of certain hormones and is an prevalent part of the structure of cells. It is regulated by two extremely necessary lipoproteins, LDL and HDL.

What is LDL?

LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein and is generally considered the "bad" cholesterol because high levels of it in the bloodstream is linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease and arterial blockage. However, LDL being all bad for you is a misconception. Though high levels can be dangerous, LDL has the important function of transporting cholesterol to cells so it can be used for the synthesis of membranes and steroid hormones. It's structure is close to 50% cholesterol and only 25% protein.
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What is HDL?

HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein, and it is mainly treated as the "good protein". It's called healthy mainly because of its function, which is to transport cholesterol away from the heart and organs and to your liver where it can be removed from the body. It is what keeps dangerous amounts of cholesterol from building up. What gives it the name "high-density" is the fact that, by weight, its structure is 50% protein, which is much denser than lipids, and only 20% cholesterol.

Why is knowing cholesterol levels important?

Knowing the levels of HDL and LDL in one's blood can be used to detect their overall health and help prevent cardiovascular diseases. It is important for doctors to know whether theres more cholesterol being carried to or from cells. Both lipoproteins are needed in proportion. Too much LDL can lead to plaques building up within arteries, and, if not monitored or left to get worse, could eventually cause heart attacks or strokes. HDL is looked at to see whether there is enough to maintain low enough amounts of cholesterol.
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What other molecules are monitored in the blood?

The levels of triglycerides and other low and high-density lipoproteins are also monitored within one's blood. A normal amount of triglycerides in a bloodstream should be lower than 150 mg/dL.

What can cholesterol test results mean?

The data of a cholesterol test tells someone whether or not they are at risk for potential heart diseases. For HDL, above 40 mg/dL is a desired number. With LDL, a result lower than 150 mg/dL is what's wanted, while anything higher than that can become dangerous. And for the overall cholesterol level, a good and healthy result is below 200 mg/dL.

How to change LDL and HDL levels

Eating a healthy diet is a great way to lower LDL and raise HDL levels. Consistent and regular exercise for at least 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week can also raise HDL levels. There are also various types of medication that can be taken that will assist in managing one's HDL and LDL levels.

How do fats affect cholesterol levels and overall health?

The intake of too many saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats is extremely unhealthy. They can easily raise LDL levels, which would increase the risk for heart diseases and arterial hardening. Aside from cholesterol levels, fats can cause people to exceed their healthy weight limit as well as raise the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

Sources

Demand Media. (n.d.). How Do LDL and HDL Differ Structurally and Functionally? Retrieved March 11, 2016, from http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/ldl-hdl-differ-structurally-functionally-2003.html


What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean. (2015, October 19). Retrieved March 11, 2016, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/What-Your-Cholesterol-Levels-Mean_UCM_305562_Article.jsp#.VuMY__krLIU


Why Do Doctors Monitor the Concentration of LDL & HDL? (2015, April 23). Retrieved March 11, 2016, from http://www.livestrong.com/article/144497-why-do-doctors-monitor-the-concentration-of-ldl-hdl/