What is Cholesterol?
When we hear cholesterol – we think of fatty foods. The truth is that fatty foods are not what cause high cholesterol. While these foods may contain cholesterol, 75% of the cholesterol in your body is actually produced by your own liver.
When cholesterol is maintained at a normal level, it plays an important role in helping your body’s cells perform their tasks. Cholesterol is in fact vital to your body, as it protects you against inflammation that may be caused by poor dietary choices, too much sugar, stress, and smoking.
What are the symptoms of high cholesterol?
High cholesterol itself does not cause any visible symptoms. But over time, it causes a buildup of plaque in your arteries. This plaque then causes your arteries to narrow, impeding blood flow. This is called atherosclerosis and can lead to serious problems like heart disease.
When should you get tested for Cholesterol?
Anybody over 20 years old should go for a screening at least every 4 to 6 years. The test is in the form of a simple blood test called a “fasting lipoprotein profile”.
A fasting lipoprotein profile measures the different types of cholesterol found in the blood stream and should be performed 9 to 12 hours after eating so that the cholesterol from food does not influence the result.
The test looks at 3 main types of cholesterol namely: bad cholesterol, good cholesterol, and triglycerides.
The Different Types of Cholesterol:
The most commonly found cholesterol in the body is the one carried by Low-Density Lipoproteins, or LDL for short. This is known as the “bad cholesterol”. When LDL combines with other substances in the body, it causes the arteries to become clogged.
Good Cholesterol –
The second biggest contributor to your total cholesterol are the High-Density Lipoproteins, or HDL. We refer to these as “good cholesterol”. They can help prevent plaque buildup in the bloodstream and can actually help remove bad cholesterol from your arteries.
Perhaps the lesser known of the 3 types of cholesterol. Triglycerides are a type of fat carried in the blood stream, which is stored in the fat cells of the body. Triglyceride levels tend to be high in people who are overweight, do not exercise, smoke tobacco products, consume excess amounts of alcohol, or eat a high-carb diet.
High triglyceride levels can lead to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Very Low-Density Lipoproteins –
VLDL deserves an honorable mention. It is a precursor of LDL. And people who have high VLDL levels are at higher risk for heart disease.
Understanding your Cholesterol
Total Cholesterol –
Total cholesterol is simply the combination of LDL, HDL, and VLDL in the body.
What about the cholesterol in food?
Despite what was believed a few years ago, high cholesterol foods do not cause high cholesterol levels. Foods like eggs, shrimp, and lobster which are high in cholesterol have minimal effect on cholesterol levels. Although high-cholesterol foods are not as bad as once thought, it is still important to maintain a balance – everything in moderation.
It is recommended that a healthy person keeps to about 300mg of cholesterol per day and that people who are at risk of high cholesterol eat no more than 200mg.
Can cholesterol be hereditary?
In short, yes it can. In certain cases it may be that a person inherits genes that cause the body to produce more cholesterol than it should. But in most of these cases it can also be attributed in part to poor diet or lifestyle choices.
Can the damage brought on by high cholesterol be undone?
Atherosclerosis only occurs after several years of plaque buildup in the arteries, so it might seem that it would take forever to undo. However, it has been found that it can actually be reversed – at least to some degree.
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