We have all heard about cholesterol in the news. Cholesterol affects the health of everyone in the world. In order to put our cholesterol levels into equilibrium you first must know what cholesterol is.
Cholesterol is a lipid, a soft, fat like substance that in reasonable amounts is crucial in maintaining good health. Cholesterol serves numerous functions imperative to the survival of the human body. The body uses cholesterol to build new cells and repair old cell membranes. Cholesterol is used to insulate nerves. It helps with the production of hormones such as testosterone, and estrogen. Cholesterol manufactures vitamin D at the skin surface. Cholesterol is even used to make bile (substance which aids digestion). (Waller, 1998)
The liver produces most of the body’s cholesterol. In our body the liver produces cholesterol when stimulated by saturated fats that we ingest. These fats come from animal products that we eat, such as meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, and eggs. The liver then transports the cholesterol throughout the body.
Cholesterol is transported throughout the body in blood packed spherical bodies called lipoproteins. There are about five different types of lipoproteins but there are two main types associated with cholesterol. The first type is low-density lipoproteins also known as LDLs, and high-density lipoproteins known as HDLs. (Health Pages, 1998)
You may have heard that some cholesterol is good for you and that other cholesterol is bad for you, this is when lipoproteins come into play. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are considered the “bad” cholesterol. LDLs carry seventy-five percent of the blood cholesterol. Therefore high-density lipoproteins (HDL) are considered “good” cholesterol. HDLs carry about twenty-five percent of the blood’s cholesterol. (Cleveland Clinic, 2000)
LDLs are large lipoproteins that are not very dense; they also never leave the body. LDLs are only bad when there are large amounts present in the blood stream. When an overabundance of LDLs are passing through the artery walls they agitate altroschlorosis (an inflammatory disease). The excess LDL reacts with other substances in the blood and form plaque. Plaque is a thick hard deposit
that restricts the flow of blood through the arteries. (Health Pages, 1998)
HDL is a dense compact microparticle. HDL moves through arteries and picks up plaque and excess LDL that have not been used yet. HDLs then return back to the liver. Once at the liver some of the HDL is processed again and sent back out into the blood as LDL, but most of the cholesterol collected is turned into bile and excreted from the body. (Cleveland Clinic, 2000)
When your levels of LDLs are significantly higher than your HDLs your arteries will become clogged. Having a high LDL count will put you at risk for many serious health problems, such as heart attack and stroke. (Chevens, 1999)
If you follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly cholesterol should not pose a large problem for you. It is recommended that everyone over the age of 21 have their cholesterol level checked every five years, and even more often for the elderly. A cholesterol test is a simple blood test that any doctor can perform.
The results of the blood test should contain three pieces of information 1. Total cholesterol count 2. HDL count 3. LDL count. If your total count is greater than 240 mg/dl it is too high. Your LDL count should not be
above 150 mg/dl, and your HDL count should be above 45 mg/dl. (Waller, 1998)
Lowering your cholesterol now can greatly reduce your health risks even for the elderly. By lowering your cholesterol levels you can improve you length and quality of life. Doctors recommend that elderly people should pay attention to their diet by eating foods low in saturated fat and total fat cholesterol. It is also recommended that they stay physically active and maintain a healthy weight. (Waller, 1998)
Cholesterol is a major health factor. There are many things you can do to control your cholesterol to improve your health. The sooner you start paying attention to your cholesterol the better chance you have that it will not become a health risk to you.
Health Pages, (1998), understand cholesterol at last, Retrieved October 15, 2000, from the World Wide Web http://content.health.msn.com/content/dmk/dmk_article_6462920
The Cleveland Clinic, (September, 2000), cholesterol problems, the Cleveland clinic, Retrieved October 15, 2000, from the World Wide Web http://onhealth.webmd.com/conditions/resoource/conditions/item,262asp