The Difference Between Good and Bad Cholesterol
Small amounts of the soft, waxy substance, known as cholesterol, are needed by the body to help form cell membranes. However, excessive cholesterol, which cannot dissolve in the blood, builds up on the walls of the arteries, clogging them, and preventing sufficient oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart and the brain. This build-up can result in heart attack or stroke.
Having too much cholesterol will not make you feel unwell. High cholesterol does not have any visible symptoms, but a simple blood test will provide accurate readings of both good and bad cholesterol. Since cholesterol cannot dissolve in blood, it needs to be carried to and from cells by lipoproteins. l
LDL, (low-density lipoprotein) or so-called "bad cholesterol", is one cholesterol carrier. As stated previously, excessive amounts of cholesterol will build up, and, together with other substances, form hard clogs. LDL is primarily responsible for clogging arteries.
HDL, (high-density lipoprotein) or so-called "good cholesterol" also carries cholesterol. The opinion is that this HDL carries cholesterol away from the heart and back to the liver where is is passed out of the body. High levels of HDL act as a protector against heart attack and stroke.
If we think of bad vs good, we can understand that having more bad LDL cholesterol will endanger us but having more good cholesterol HDL will help us. How can we get a better cholesterol balance?
The body makes its own cholesterol and usually the body will make almost all it needs, about eighty percent. The rest of the cholesterol in the body comes from the foods we eat, mostly the saturated fats which are in animal-based foods such as meat and dairy products and in some plant foods, primarily coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter. Most plants however do not contain significant amounts of saturated fats. Trans fats are another problem. They are a form of man-made fat created when liquid oil is turned into solid fat such as found in some margarine.
To get control of our bad cholesterol, we must first eat a healthier diet of lean meats, low fat dairy products and lots of fruits and vegetables. Soluble fiber, found in oat bran, fruits, and vegetables, helps the body eliminate excess blood cholesterol.
Become a label reader so you can hunt out hidden trans fats.
Make sure that testing your cholesterol is part of your annual check-up. You doctor will explain what your cholesterol levels should be. If you find your levels of 'bad' cholesterol are too high or "good" cholesterol are too low, obtain dietary information from your doctor or health department to learn what foods you should avoid.
How food is prepared has a significant influence on cholesterol. Broil, bake, poach, or microwave instead of frying. Cut down on the oil you use when cooking.
Exercise can, in addition to increasing your HDL or good cholesterol, contol weight, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Smoking on the other hand lowers your HDL or good cholesterol as well as increasing the tendency of blood to clot.
If you find that you are unable to bring your cholesterol levels to an acceptable range by dietary and lifestyle changes alone, your doctor may prescribe medication. This must be taken together with a healthier lifestyle and diet. Medication alone will not do the trick. If you experience unpleasant side affects from your medication, always inform your doctor as alternative drugs are available.
Medication must always be taken as prescribed and may need to be taken for life. Never stop taking your medication unless told by your doctor to do so. Inevitably cholesterol levels will immediately rise and your life could again be in danger.
More by this Author
Some of the best herbs and how to use them.
It is vital that diabetics pay careful attention to any substance they ingest, especially medications.
Here are some tips on how to make the most of each visit to your doctor - B.