The discussion on Good Cholesterol vs Bad Cholesterol is an important one. It's good to be aware of what you eat and the lifestyle you lead. Your small decisions can make a big difference to your health & fitness.
What do we know about cholesterol?
The general perception of cholesterol is to have that right level that does not pose problems to your heart health. There are two types of cholesterols namely, the HDL (good cholesterol) and the LDL (bad cholesterol) so to speak, which we hear in common terms. HDL means high-density lipoprotein and LDL means low-density lipoprotein. Lipoproteins comprise of fats and proteins essentially. There is a third kind of cholesterol that doctors usually categorize as triglycerides. Triglycerides are the excess fat that comes from sugar, alcohol and other excess fatty foods that get stored as fat in the body. Here are a few facts about the good and bad kinds of cholesterol that could help you understand the LDL and HDL better.
Why your body needs cholesterol?
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In order to support your digestive system your body needs cholesterol to produce necessary hormones and vitamin D. Ideally good cholesterol and bad cholesterol is there in our body because our liver produces it but is not necessarily enough to be absorbed by our body. In that case, the basic foods such as meat, dairy, poultry provide you with the added cholesterol needed. However, over-consumption of say, red meat or other high-protein foods may give rise to your cholesterol levels in general and that is not desirable.
What is good cholesterol?
The good cholesterol as we know it is the HDL that allows some cholesterol to be expelled out of the body through the liver. It does so because excess cholesterol is undesirable for a good heart health. The remaining excess of the lipoproteins (cholesterols that move around in it) can easily reach the arteries of the heart and can cause a blockage. The good cholesterol, therefore, eliminates that excess out of the body so that the chances of it to reach the arteries is reduced.
What is bad cholesterol?
- LDL comprises of most part of the body’s cholesterol while HDL cleans it up or eliminates the scavenging LDLs.
- HDL reduces and exports the bad LDLs into the liver to be ultimately expelled or processed again in the body.
- While LDLs cause plaque on the arterial walls causing atherosclerosis the HDLs do the exact opposite. They “clean up” the endothelium (inner wall) of blood vessels reducing their chances of clotting and eventually blocking the artery.
- LDLs that cause atherosclerosis can cause heart attacks and strokes which HDLs prevent.
- Lowering LDLs can happen by generating more HDLs, you can cut down on simple carbs or by exercising. It is best not to smoke or drink if conditions such as diabetes or other heart-related diseases prevail. Doctors are able to measure your cholesterol levels and tell you what is best for you for your age.
How to reduce bad cholesterol?
It is the bad cholesterol that increases heart risk to your body, so it is obvious that one might need to cut down on such foods and lower the levels of low-density lipoproteins.
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- A healthy diet: The answer to having a healthy life is, in essence, having a healthy diet. This necessarily does not mean cutting down on all fats and carbs but to smartly avoid unhealthy foods. Adding nuts and plant foods in your diet may decrease chances of LDLs roaming in your blood stream. You can also avoid sugary biscuits or fatty foods made of flour and heavy sauces which do not add to any nutritional value.
- Exercise regularly: It is no secret that the heart pumps in oxygen when you exercise thus adding to a steady oxygen supply in your body. This will cut out the LDLs because the heart will regulate more oxygen.
- Consult a doctor: If you are still under control of your cholesterol level, then simple choices in diet and exercise will do. If not, then a doctor might procure medication to lower LDL levels. You can take pills or shots of medicines that your doctor provides you. It is highly advisable not to take cholesterol medicine on your own unless consulted by a healthcare professional.
- Having high HDL is a good sign because it reduces chances of your body to create LDL. If your HDL counts are over 60mgs/dl (milligrams per decilitre) then you have the high good cholesterol.
- If the levels of HDLs are under 40mgs/dl, then you have low HDLs which means it is time to exercise and plan on adding HDL rich foods to your diet.
- If into smoking or alcoholism, then it is best to start taking measures to quit or reduce intakes as these are one of the main cause of decreased HDL. Quitting smoking and alcohol will increase HDL.
Measuring levels of cholesterol
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The measurement is based on total cholesterol which is the levels of LDL, HDL, and triglycerides in the body. It is important for people from the age of 20 to 45 to measure their cholesterol levels. Even if young, you can have a lipid profile test to check cholesterol levels. This is usually a test prescribed by doctors. Lipid profile tests include checking of your LDL and HDL along with total cholesterol. Results appear in the form of numbers just as any other blood test. This is ideal to see how much at risk can your heart be at a given stage of time in your life- this is mainly for doctor consultation.