If you ask a random person on the street if they have heard of cholesterol, chances are they have. It is also highly likely that they hold some common ideas concerning this vital compound, its role in the human body, and the damage elevated levels can cause. These ideas are spread so frequently that many people consider them truth. But are they? If you are a person who is concerned about your heart health it can be very important to get informed. Keep reading as I shine a light on what cholesterol is, how high LDL can damage your health and how to lower your cholesterol. I will even debunk some myths along the way.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance found in nearly every cell of the human body. Your body uses this compound to make vitamin D and some hormones as well as substances to help you digest the food you eat. It is not necessary to get cholesterol from food. Your body makes its own. But that does not mean cholesterol is not present in foods you eat. Cholesterol travels through your body in small packages called lipoproteins which are made of fat or lipid on the inside and protein on the outside. There are two types of lipoproteins, High-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) Having healthy levels of both types of cholesterol is important for your body’s continued functioning, but high levels of LDL can be a large problem.
The Effects of High LDL Cholesterol
High LDL cholesterol is a condition whereby you have too much cholesterol in your blood. By itself, it usually has no symptoms so most people do not realize when their cholesterol is high. High cholesterol silently causes plaque build-up in the coronary arteries. This build-up can be very dangerous as it can lead to atherosclerosis, the hardening of the coronary arteries, those closest to the heart. Plaque build-up narrows the arteries, restricting the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart. Eventually, a plaque can rupture, forming a blood clot on the surface. This clot, if it grows big enough may cut off the blood supply to a section of the heart muscle. This is called a heart attack, and if blood flow is not restored quickly, the section of muscle will soon die. Untreated heart attacks can lead to serious problems or even death. Plaque can also build up in other arteries as well, leading to such problems as strokes and peripheral artery disease.
Lowering Your Cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol, do not fret. Though it is a risk factor for heart disease, it is something which can be controlled. Avoid trans fats, found in baked goods, fried foods, and even frozen pizza crusts. Read food labels and look for partially hydrogenated in the name. That is a fancy word for trans-fat. Losing weight is another way to lower cholesterol. Losing just ten pounds will lower your LDL by eight per cent. And make sure to fill up on fiber. People who ate just ten more grams of fiber than they normally would lowered their LDL cholesterol drastically, and raised their HDL as well.
As you continue your research into cholesterol, you are bound to come across some very insidious myths. Here are a few of them, so that you do not fall prey to misinformation. It is often thought that eating eggs will make your cholesterol rise. While it is true that eggs do contain a lot of dietary cholesterol, not all of that makes it into your bloodstream. If your level of dietary cholesterol rises, your body simply compensates by making less cholesterol of its own. As an added note, it is often thought that children cannot have high cholesterol. Sadly, this is untrue. With the increasing rate of childhood obesity in America, more and more children have high cholesterol and may develop heart disease. That is why it is important to practice good health habits, not just for you but for your entire family as well.
Being a savvy consumer is very important. One step toward that goal is education, especially where your health is concerned. Now you know what exactly cholesterol is, what it does in the body, how high blood cholesterol can affect your health, and even how to lower it. Perhaps the next time you see a person on the street or in a diner spreading misinformation about cholesterol and its risks you can shed some light on the subject and help them in turn.