September 3, 2014

Cholesterol and Heart Health – The Connection Explained

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol, a waxy substance naturally produced by the liver, is carried in blood and found in different parts of the body. Cholesterol creates cell tissues, produces hormones, protects the nerves, and makes bile salts that aid in digestion of fats. The liver typically produces about 1,000 milligrams of cholesterol a day, which is sufficient for cholesterol-related body functions. However, it is also possible to consume cholesterol through certain food products, and as we all know, too much of it can be an undesirable thing. This is why it is important to manage cholesterol and keep it under reasonable levels. Fortunately, if you have high blood cholesterol, there are steps you can take to lower it and protect your health.

healthy foods for your heart

The “Good” and “Bad”

You have probably heard people call HDL as good cholesterol and LDL as bad cholesterol; this is because of their very different effects on the body. High-density lipoproteins (HDL or “good” cholesterol) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL or “bad” cholesterol) are the two important types of lipoproteins present in our body. The amount of protein present in the molecules determines the density of these lipoproteins. A major portion of cholesterol in the body is LDL, and this is the type that clogs blood vessels, keeping blood from flowing through the body the way it normally does. On the other hand, a high level of HDL (imagine this as a drain cleaner you pour into the sink) is considered to offer some protection against arterial blockage. Whether you are 30 or 60, it is never too early or too late to start to reduce the risk of heart disease.

How Does Cholesterol Affect Heart Health?

When you have too much of cholesterol, it can be dangerous to your health. If there is too much LDL cholesterol, it can deposit on the walls of arteries and over time, forms into a hard substance called plaque. This plaque deposit occludes the normal blood flow, narrows the arteries, and causes atherosclerosis, a condition marked by hardening of arteries.

An atherosclerosis of the blood vessels supplying the brain is called cerebral vascular disease, a condition that puts the individual at risk of having a stroke. An atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries (blood vessels supplying the muscles of the heart) is called coronary heart disease, a condition that puts a person at risk of having a heart attack.

Atherosclerosis can also block blood flow to other important organs including the intestines and kidneys. It is important to start paying attention to cholesterol levels as early as possible, because you can prevent or delay serious health complications in the future before it is too late.

What Causes High Cholesterol Levels?

Factors within your control, which includes an unhealthy diet, obesity, and inactivity, contribute to low HDL cholesterol and high LDL cholesterol. Certain factors beyond your control may also play a role. For instance, your genetic makeup may cause your liver to produce too much cholesterol or keep cells from efficiently flushing out LDL cholesterol from your blood.

What can you do to Manage Cholesterol?

Some individuals with high cholesterol may be advised by their doctor to be on medication to control it. You can’t change you genes but you definitely can change your lifestyle and do things to reduce your risk of heart disease.

• Exercise regularly and lose those extra flabs and flesh
• Increase your consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables
• Eat heart-healthy foods
• Eat heart-healthy fish
• Eliminate trans-fat and choose healthier fats
• Limit your dietary cholesterol
• Quit smoking
• Choose whole-grain based foods

Author Bio: Sindhu is a writer, health & nutrition enthusiast, globe trotter, and an avid cook who has picked up various nutritional philosophies and lifestyles along the way. She is passionate about nutrition, its impact on happiness, and effect on the mind. At present she blogs for dieting revisited site that looks at paleo diet.

Speak Your Mind

*