To define cholesterol, cholesterol is a waxy steroid that is produced in the body and is moved about inside the blood plasma of every animal. This lipid fat is originally produced by the liver of all animals and is essential for the function of a normal body. Each cell of every animal’s body has cholesterol. However, it can also be found in plants and fungi. It is listed as a sterol from the steroid subgroup.
Every person’s body requires a small amount of cholesterol to create vitamin D, hormones, and many substances that assist the digestion process. Every human body generates all the cholesterol it will ever need. It travels through the bloodstream as a lipoprotein.
Cholesterol is transported around the body through the blood in molecules that are referred to as lipoproteins. As a complex compound, cholesterol contains both protein and a lipid fat. There are three varieties of lipoproteins that include low-density (LDL), high-density (HDL) and triglycerides.
• Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) – Often considered as the “bad” cholesterol, LDL is produced by consuming bad cholesterol foods. It is transported through the blood from the liver into the cells. With high levels of LDL, or more than each cell can use, it can quickly generate harmful levels. Any level over 160 mg/dL of LDL can dramatically increase the risk of arterial disease. Of all the cholesterol transported through the blood, most humans have approximately 70% of LDL, although this would obviously vary with each person.
• High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) – Usually thought of as the “good” cholesterol, HDL actually prevents arterial disease. Its function in the body is opposite of LDL cholesterol in that it removes cholesterol by transporting it from the cells back to the liver to be purged from the blood. Inside the liver, the excessive cholesterol will either be broken down or eliminated as waste from the body.
• Triglycerides – The various chemical forms of triglycerides are produced from fat that exists in the body, as well as fat that is consumed in food. Triglycerides are often present in blood plasma and have been associated with cholesterol, specifically plasma lipids (blood fat). Typically, the carbohydrates that are consumed every day help develop triglycerides. Any calorie that is consumed but not immediately used by the body can easily be converted into triglycerides and eventually stored inside fat cells. Anytime the body requires extra energy when no food source is present, hormones will release triglycerides from the stored fat in cells and convert it into energy.
To see the cholesterol and triglycerides guidelines click here
High Blood Cholesterol
Many people experience high blood cholesterol at some point in their life. When the condition first begins to develop there are typically are no symptoms or signs. Therefore, many individuals can have high levels of cholesterol and not even know it.
Individuals that consume a bad diet that is laden with LDL cholesterol are typically at great risk for coronary heart disease (coronary artery disease). Additionally those individuals with a family medical history of high cholesterol will generally have higher levels of LDL in the bloodstream.
Depending on the type of high levels of cholesterol found in the bloodstream, the better or worse the person’s health is. Higher levels of LDL cholesterol can significantly increase the chance of experiencing heart disease. However, the higher level of HDL, the lower the percentage of risk.
Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary heart disease is a health condition that is developed with the buildup of plaque on the inside of the heart’s arteries. The plaque is formulated by calcium, fat, cholesterol, and a variety of other substances in the blood. As the plaque begins to accumulate on the inside of the arteries, atherosclerosis can quickly develop. As the individual ages, this cholesterol-produced plaque tends to harden, narrowing the arteries of the heart. Overall, this can limit the flow of blood and restrict oxygen to every cell in the body. At some point, the plaque can rupture and form a blood clot which could completely block the flow of blood.
While cholesterol is an essential part of healthy living, high levels of LDL can cause significant damage and even death when left unchecked. Living a healthy lifestyle, consuming a heart-healthy diet, and performing regular exercise can greatly increase healthy HDL cholesterol levels while decreasing the harmful LDL cholesterol.