We know the word –but what is cholesterol and what does it do?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body needs to build cells. But, too much cholesterol can cause problems. Cholesterol comes from two sources – your liver and your food. Foods high in cholesterol are typically derived from animals such as meat, poultry and dairy. These foods and those that are high in saturated and trans fats cause your liver to make more cholesterol than it would otherwise.
There are two types of cholesterol – LDL (bad) Cholesterol & HDL (good) cholesterol. Too much bad, or too little good, cholesterol increases the chances that it will slowly build up in the inner walls of arteries, creating a hard, thick deposit.
Experts believe that HDL (good) cholesterol works as scavengers to pick up and carry LDL (bad) cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver. From here, the LDL (bad) cholesterol is broken down and passed from the body. But HDL (good) cholesterol is not a superhero on its own – only about 25-30% of cholesterol is carried by HDL. It is important to make lifestyle changes in order to support the healthy function of your liver and HDL cholesterol.
When the balance is off in our levels, we increase the chance of buildup in the walls of our arteries. The more plaque builds inside the arteries, the narrower they become. Subsequently, if a blood clot occurs and blocks one of these narrowed arteries, it can result in a heart attack or stroke.
In addition to HDL & LDL, triglycerides are also commonly discussed with overall cholesterol levels. Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body and they store excess energy from your diet. When triglycerides are high, along with high LDL (bad) cholesterol or low HDL (good) cholesterol, there is an increased risk of fatty buildups within the arteries.
So what can we do about it?
The 3 C’s
The American Heart Association recommends focusing on these 3 “C’s.”
The American Heart Association even offers a calculator to help you learn risks and get you on a path to a healthier you.
Other Risk Factors
While high cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for heart attack, stroke and coronary heart disease, other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes increase your risk even more.
Tips to help control or reduce your cholesterol
Written By: S. Campbell for Access Health Care Physicians, LLC.
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