The Cholesterol Low Down For Busy People

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a substance that’s found in the fats (lipids) in your blood. While your body needs cholesterol to continue building healthy cells and to produce certain hormones, having too high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. Low cholesterol foods.

When you have high cholesterol, you may develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels (a process referred to as atherosclerosis). Eventually, these deposits make it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Your heart may not get as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs, which increases the risk of a heart attack. Decreased blood flow to your brain can cause a stroke.

High cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) can be inherited, but is often preventable and treatable. A healthy diet, regular exercise and sometimes medication can go a long way toward reducing high cholesterol.

Cholesterol is carried through your blood, attached to proteins. This combination of proteins and cholesterol is called a lipoprotein. You may have heard of different types of cholesterol, based on what type of cholesterol the lipoprotein carries. They are:

• Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol transports cholesterol particles throughout your body. LDL cholesterol builds up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow.

• Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL). This type of lipoprotein contains the most triglycerides, a type of fat, attached to the proteins in your blood. VLDL cholesterol makes LDL cholesterol larger in size, causing your blood vessels to narrow. If you’re taking cholesterol-lowering medication but have a high VLDL level, you may need additional medication to lower your triglycerides.

• High-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL, or “good,” cholesterol picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to your liver.

Factors within your control — such as inactivity, obesity and an unhealthy diet — contribute to high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol.

Factors beyond your control may play a role, too. For example, your genetic makeup may keep cells from removing LDL cholesterol from your blood efficiently or cause your liver to produce too much cholesterol.

You’re more likely to have high cholesterol that can lead to heart disease if you have any of these risk factors:

Smoking. Cigarette smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, making them likely to accumulate fatty deposits. Smoking may also lower your level of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol.

Obesity. Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater puts you at risk of high cholesterol. Your BMI can be calculated by diving your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres therefore kg/(m)2.

Poor diet. Foods that are high in cholesterol, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, will increase your total cholesterol. Eating saturated fat, found in animal products, and trans fats, found in some commercially baked cookies and crackers, also can raise your cholesterol level.

Lack of exercise. Exercise helps boost your body’s HDL “good” cholesterol while lowering your LDL “bad” cholesterol. Not getting enough exercise puts you at risk of high cholesterol.

High blood pressure. Increased pressure on your artery walls damages your arteries, which can speed the accumulation of fatty deposits.

Diabetes. High blood sugar contributes to higher LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. High blood sugar also damages the lining of your arteries.

Family history of heart disease. If a parent or sibling developed heart disease before age 55, high cholesterol levels place you at a greater than average risk of developing heart disease.

This adjusted summary comes from the Mayo Clinic.

Look out for other blog entries for more information on cholesterol lowering foods and diet.

Other useful resources:

http://www.heartfoundation.co.za

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu

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