What is cholesterol and why it is important to keep it under control?
Cholesterol is a viscous, fat-like substance that the body needs. But when there is too much in the blood, it can deposit itself on the walls of the arteries and form blockages. This can generate heart disease, heart attack, and even stroke. Therefore, it is important to have it under control.
The body needs cholesterol to build up cells, to make hormones, vitamin D and bile for food.
There are two types of lipoproteins:
- low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol, also known as bad cholesterol
- high-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol, also known as good cholesterol
LDL travels through the bloodstream delivering cholesterol to the cells that need it. If the body has too much LDL it can build up in the walls of the arteries and form a fatty deposit called plaque. The artery can be narrowed by the growing plaque, which will reduce the blood flow. LDL cholesterol level should be lower than 140 mg/dl.
A common place this plaque can build up is in the coronary arteries which are the blood vessels that feed the heart. This plaque buildup causes coronary artery disease and increases the risk of heart attack.
The liver also makes high-density lipoprotein or HDL, also known as the good cholesterol. HDL collects the excess cholesterol from the body, takes it to the liver, which eliminates it. HDL cholesterol level should be 60 mg/dl or higher.
The total blood cholesterol level is a measure of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and the other lipid components, such as triglycerides. The cholesterol level should be neither too high nor too low as cholesterol helps to produce good "youth" hormones.
The most important factor to take in consideration is not the total cholesterol level, but the HDL/LDL ratio, the triglycerides and other lipid levels. Health and longevity can be successfully guarded by operating on the lipid profile.
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