Many people have different opinions and views on cholesterol but do not know much about what cholesterol really is. This article will help answer your question of “What is cholesterol?” The cholesterol in our bodies comes from within our bodies as well as from the foods we eat. Cholesterol travels through your blood attached to a protein. Once attached to a protein, it is referred to as a lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are classified as high density lipoproteins (hdl), low density lipoproteins, or very low density lipoproteins.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is the building block for our cell walls and hormones in our bodies. We need cholesterol in order for our bodies to function properly. However, too high of cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease and stroke.
A cholesterol screening typically measures low density lipoproteins (LDL), high density lipoproteins (HDL), and triglycerides. Low density lipoproteins are known as “bad” dietary cholesterol because when there is too much ldl cholesterol levels in your bloodstream, it can clog your arteries and lead to a heart attack and stroke. High density lipoproteins are known as “good” cholesterol because it helps to prevent the buildup of “bad” cholesterol levels in your arteries by removing some of the ldl cholesterol from your artery walls.
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. Your body converts any calories you don’t use into triglycerides, which are stored in your fat cells. Triglycerides are released for energy in between meals. If you eat more calories than the amount of calories you burn, you may have high triglycerides levels in your bloodstream. High triglycerides levels can increase your risk for heart disease. By avoiding high triglycerides levels, you will have much better heart health as well as better overall health.
Dietary cholesterol can be found in animal products such as dairy, meat, fish, poultry, etc. If it is related to an animal, it probably has dietary cholesterol in it.
Although you may have been taught otherwise, dietary cholesterol consumption from food does not have as big an impact on the cholesterol levels in our bodies as it is commonly believed. The goal is to increase high density lipoproteins and lower low density lipoproteins. Some things you can do to lower your low density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and raise your hdl cholesterol is to lose weight, exercise, avoid saturated and trans fats, and consume high fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. There are also pills that can be taken to lower your cholesterol but I would only take those as a last resort as they have many potentially very harmful side effects. Limiting dietary cholesterol levels in your diet may be important, but there is little to no research proving this claim.
You can visit the American Heart Association website to see the recommended cholesterol level guidelines, at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/FatsAndOils/Fats101/Levels-of-Cholesterol_UCM_305051_Article.jsp#.TubsC3r__QI.