Everyone knows that maintaining good cholesterol levels is important. But do you know how it influences our body?
If you don’t know you should, because this might save you from many diseases that are caused by elevated cholesterol.
Cholesterol can be defined as a fat-like substance that is found in all cells of the body that perform various functions. Cholesterol is used in making vitamin D, some hormones, and enzymes that help in digestion. While cholesterol is present everywhere in the body, elevated levels can lead to serious health issues such as stroke, high blood pressure, or heart disease, because high cholesterol levels can build plaques in the blood vessels, and it deposits on the walls of your blood vessels. This build-up process is called atherosclerosis.
But a good diet, exercise, and healthy lifestyle habits can manage your cholesterol levels.
Types of cholesterol
There are 3 types of cholesterol that are found in the body:
- HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein)/Good Cholesterol
- LDL (Low-Density Lipoproteins)/Bad Cholesterol
HDL (Good) Cholesterol:
HDL stands for High-Density Lipoprotein, which is good cholesterol because this type of cholesterol protects your heart (from a heart attack or stroke). It also carries the bad cholesterol (LDL) far away from arteries and back to the liver and breaks down the bad cholesterol so that it can be excreted from the body. Keep in mind that HDL cholesterol does not fully eliminate bad cholesterol from the blood only ⅓ to ¼ bad cholesterol is carried by HDL.
LDL (Bad) Cholesterol:
LDL stands for Low-Density Lipoprotein, which is bad cholesterol because it can help to build up fatty substances called plaques on the walls of arteries, which can narrow the arteries making it hard for the blood to reach the heart (which can cause a heart attack or stroke). Keep in mind high levels of LDL cholesterol can cause heart diseases.
VLDL cholesterol stands for Very Low-Density Lipoprotein. It is also a form of bad (LDL) cholesterol which also helps in building plaques but the main difference between LDL and VLDL is, VLDL carries a type of fat called triglycerides in your blood.
Cholesterol performs certain functions in the body:
- It helps to repair damaged tissue or in the formation of new tissue
- Helps in the production of hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, and estrogen.
- It helps in the production of bile juice in the liver which is used to digest foods.
- It also helps the body to create vitamin D from sunlight.
- It provides insulation to nerve cells.
- It helps in the formation and maintaining cell membranes and their structures.
These functions can only be executed properly if cholesterol levels are in the normal range otherwise it can lead to diseases.
Causes of high cholesterol
As LDL and HDL are naturally produced in our bodies, certain factors can increase the production of cholesterol in the body, including:
- Unhealthy diet: One of the major causes that increase the levels of bad cholesterol in the body is eating food that contains trans, saturated, and processed fats. Some meats, dairy products, chocolate, biscuits, pastries, hamburgers, pizza, fries, ghee, coconut oil, noodles, etc. are types that contain bad fats.
- Lack of physical activity: Doing work that involves less or no physical activity can increase your cholesterol levels. Because the body doesn’t burn the calories it consumes, which are going to be stored as fats that increase bad cholesterol levels.
- Smoking: Smoking affects your cholesterol levels. Its effects are more common in women than men. It decreases the levels of good cholesterol.
- Some conditions or diseases: Some conditions and diseases can cause high cholesterol levels such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease.
Risk factors for developing high cholesterol levels
- Age: Cholesterol levels tend to rise as you get older.
- Heredity: You can inherit high cholesterol if you have a family history of high cholesterol.
- Weight: If you are overweight or have obesity, it can lead to high cholesterol levels.
- Ethnic background: Certain types of ethnicities suffer from high cholesterol levels. For example, African Americans have been commonly found to have high LDL levels.
High cholesterols levels can create plaques on the walls of arteries. This can cause problems such as:
- Coronary Artery Disease: It blocks down or narrows the coronary artery which supplies blood to the heart. It can cause a heart attack or stroke.
- Peripheral Artery Disease: Cholesterol blocks the peripheral arteries which supply blood to the legs and arms. It can cause pain or weakness when walking or using hands for gripping.
- Carotid Artery Disease: It blocks the carotid artery which supplies blood to the brain causing stroke, drooling, slurred speech, etc.
As cholesterol moves silently in your blood. So, you may not even feel anything until you have a heart attack or stroke. And by that time, it’s already done severe damage to your body. So, to prevent it you need to make sure that you get your cholesterol levels checked regularly.
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