What is Cholesterol?

Anand Loganathan / PBS - Period 1

What in the Heck is Cholesterol?!

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in most cells that is essential for the processes of digestion and hormone secretion. To travel throughout the body, cholesterol is stored in small packages called lipoproteins that flow through the bloodstream. Two types of lipoprotein that are key to the movement of cholesterol are LDL's and HDL's. By finding a healthy balance in both your cholesterol levels and lipoprotein levels, you'll be as healthy as a hippo!

More about Lipoproteins

LDL- Contributes to plaque in the bloodstream, leading to build-ups in the arteries and possible clots; made up of 50% cholesterol and 25% protein (low density).

HDL- Helps carry cholesterol from the bloodstream back to the liver; made up of 20% cholesterol and 50% protein (high density) .

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Why Should My Lipoprotein Levels be Monitored?

Doctors commonly monitor the LDL and HDL levels in a patient's blood to help evaluate their risks of serious conditions such as heart disease. Higher concentrations of LDL point to a higher risk of clogged arteries or plaque build-up, while as higher concentrations of HDL can help clean up some of the damage caused by the HDL and reopen arteries, meaning that a good balance of both is needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Other fatty substances such as VLDL's or triglycerides are also tracked to assure full circulation throughout the body.

Reading a Cholesterol Test

Though the wording of some cholesterol tests may be tricky, knowing what to look for is key to knowing if there is anything serious shown through the test. When looking at overall blood cholesterol levels for normal adults, less than 200 mg/dL is a desirable level, while anything between 200 and 239 mg/dL is borderline high risk, and anything above 240 mg/dL is dangerously high and should be tended to immediately.
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What can I do to Lower My Cholesterol Levels?

Even if your cholesterol levels are high now, there are numerous ways one can achieve the cholesterol levels they hope to have. Avoid foods that contains saturated and trans fats, which promote the build up of cholesterol in the bloodstream, and focus on more heart healthy foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and foods rich in unsaturated fats and Omega-3 fatty acids. Other lifestyle choices one can make to lower their cholesterol include regimented exercise, no smoking, drinking in moderation, and even taking prescribed medication if needed.

Sources

  • "How Do LDL and HDL Differ Structurally and Functionally?" Healthy Eating. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  • "What Is Cholesterol?" - NHLBI, NIH. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  • "High Cholesterol." Top 5 Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Cholesterol. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.