What is Cholesterol, Anyway?

What is cholesterol anyway? It is a fatty, waxy substance that’s everywhere in your body. In fact, it’s involved with things like bile, cell membranes, vitamin D and even cell membranes. In other words — it’s involved with nearly everything. Not to mention it insulates nerves as well. We get cholesterol from our diet, but it’s also produced in our liver.

Why do some people have just enough and others too much? There are a few factors that determines the amount of cholesterol in our bodies. For example, the rate at which the liver produces it, how much saturated fat you eat, and even the amount of cholesterol you consume; all play a part.

Now your body uses what it needs for day-to-day living, but the extra cholesterol floats around in your bloodstream. And that’s where the problem lies — high levels of blood cholesterol can gunk up your blood vessels. And this clogging puts you more at risk for stroke and/or heart disease.

Cholesterol — There’s More Than One Type

There are two types of cholesterol, and they act differently in your body.

LDL — low density lipoprotein — is what’s often referred to as “bad cholesterol”, because it’s more likely to have an adverse reaction to your body.

On the other hand, HDL — high density lipoprotein — is known as “good cholesterol” because it can help to sweep away some of the LDL effects. And by clearing the LDL from your blood, you reduce your chance of heart disease and stroke.

Cholesterol and Coronary Disease

As you’ve no doubt heard, high levels of cholesterol is one of the primary contributors to coronary disease (i.e., heart disease). Research has been going on for years, and indicates there is a link between high levels of cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease. So it stands to reason that a lower amount of cholesterol in the blood means less plaque (“gunk”) buildup in the artery walls. This reduces the changes that the plaque will form a blockage; and it’s the blockage that is responsible for the stroke or heart attack.

Risks for High Cholesterol

The following are several risk factors for high cholesterol:

  • Smoking,
  • Bad eating habits (fast food, anyone?).
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Continued stress (emotional or physical).
  • Hereditary.
  • Obesity.

How many of these risks do you have?

How to Lower Cholesterol

There are ways to lower cholesterol in your bloodstream; here are a few ways.

  • Eat a balanced diet — limit fatty foods and drive-throughs.
  • Regular Exercise — 30 minutes or more, at least 3 times a week (5 times is better).
  • Take niacin; it’s a B vitamin that helps to decrease bad cholesterol by raising the good.
  • If you’re overweight, lose weight. You’d be surprised what just 10 pounds can do for your cholesterol levels!