Cholesterol: A Quick Guide to Good and Bad Cholesterol

by Lynn Ruder - Date: 2007-02-27 - Word Count: 589 Share This!

Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance which is absolutely essential to the function of the body and all of its cells. It enables the body to function properly by keeping cell membranes intact. When there is too much cholesterol in the body it can cause clogged arteries. If not diagnosed and treated, clogged arteries can put you at risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

How does it all work? Cholesterol is manufactured in the liver.There are two kinds of cholesterol: High Density Lipoproteins (HDL), also known as the "good cholesterol" and Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL), also known as the "bad cholesterol". Lipoproteins are the vehicle by which the cholesterol is transported through the body. HDL is considered "good" because it transports the cholesterol back to the liver where it is removed. This is why it is desirable to have a high level of HDL in the blood. HDL is made up mostly of protein with just a little fat.

LDL, on the other hand, is made up mostly of fat and can cause the arteries to become clogged. It does this by depositing a thick substance called "plaque" along the walls of the arteries, thereby narrowing them and preventing the flow of blood and oxygen. This process is called atherosclerosis. If not enough oxygen reaches the heart you may experience pain. This pain is known as angina and is usually felt in the chest area and/or in the left arm and shoulder.

Cholesterol levels in the blood are influenced by both diet and heredity. Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a very common inherited disorder. People who suffer from FH have a tendency to develop atherosclerosis and heart attacks at a young age. Some people have high cholesterol as a result of their diet and can control it by making dietary changes. In extreme cases doctors prescribe Statin drugs, which lower LDL, but which also come along with a myriad of unpleasant side effects.

There are many different foods in your daily diet that can help reduce LDL and raise HDL levels. By increasing your awareness of what these foods are and incorporating them into your daily diet you can both ward off unhealthy levels of cholesterol and also help treat high cholesterol. For example, soluble fiber reduces the amount of LDL in the blood. This is present in oatmeal, legumes, apples, pears, carrots, sweet potatoes and other foods. Omega 3 oils have been found to lower LDL while raising HDL. Omega 3 oils are present in fish like salmon, halibut and tuna. Flax is also a rich source of Omega 3.

There are also foods that dieticians recommend that you avoid in order to lower cholesterol levels. Foods such as trans fats (all hydrogenated fats). These fats are present in all commercially baked goods. Margarine is a definite no-no. Saturated fats are controversial. Most doctors recommend avoiding them but there has been research that shows that saturated fats do not cause elevated cholesterol, so the jury is still "out" on saturated fats. Blueberries and walnuts are both heart healthy foods that have been found to lower cholesterol too. Exercising regularly can increase HDL numbers and is therefore recommended. Of course, exercise is recommended for just about every ailment under the sun and is essential to one's well being.

The bottom line is that it is important for everyone to perform bloodtests at a regular interval to determine if they suffer from high cholesterol. As mentioned above, cholesterol can often be regulated by diet and exercise. Knowledge is power!! Go out and perform that simple blood test!

Related Tags: stroke, heart disease, cholesterol, ldl, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, hdl

Lynn Ruder is a health researcher with a wealth of knowledge on many health related topics. Visit her blog at to learn more about cholesterol.

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