Cholesterol is a white, waxy, fatty substance. It is made in the liver and released into the bloodstream. You can also get cholesterol from the food you eat. It is important to get your cholesterol checked and learn how to manage your cholesterol.
We have all been informed to keep our cholesterol down. High cholesterol ends in hardened arteries, coronary heart disease, and even strokes.
Anyone can have high cholesterol:
men, women, the younger, the old, the skinny and the not-so-skinny. A cholesterol molecule is a lipid, which is a category of water-insoluble substances such as waxes, oils and fat. Because it cannot dissolve in water or watery substances like blood, cholesterol can’t flow around within the bloodstream on its own.
Raised cholesterol is a common problem and a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease; however, a visit to your GP and following a healthy diet and lifestyle can help to lower cholesterol levels and will significantly reduce the risk.
Before we get on to the different styles of cholesterol, it’s important to recognize simply what cholesterol is. Basically, cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s, produced by the body and travels around it inside the bloodstream, carried by lipoproteins. It’s perfectly natural (and indeed, necessary) for many bodily processes. But, it is feasible to have an excessive amount of it – and an excessive amount of the wrong type, too.
What is the difference between HDL and LDL?
Cholesterol travels through your bloodstream in ‘packages’ called lipoproteins along with other types of fat and proteins. There are two main kinds of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol through your body: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). These two lipoproteins are what is known as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol. Being able to differentiate between the two is very important for ensuring the levels of the latter are kept to a minimum for the sake of your health.
Let’s take a look at the difference between HDL and LDL:-
High-density Lipoprotein (HDL) –
Good Cholesterol – The ‘density’ of a lipoprotein, dictated by the amounts of fat (lipid) and protein in the particle. High-density lipoprotein, abbreviated as HDL – commonly as ‘good’ cholesterol. HDL is the smallest and densest of the lipoproteins. This is because it contains comparatively low-fat content, compared to protein, with a core comprised mainly of cholesterol, cholesterol is vital for your body’s metabolic function.
HDL is what collects excess cholesterol and transports to the liver, broken down and removed. It clings tightly to the cholesterol it carries, ensuring none gets loose and attaches itself to the walls of your arteries. Having higher amounts of HDL is important as it lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. It is, considered as a protective mechanism in your bloodstream.
Low-density Lipoproteins (LDL) –
Bad Cholesterol – Low-density lipoprotein – abbreviated as LDL – is what is common — as ‘bad’ cholesterol. The particles are roughly twice as big as high-density lipoproteins and, as you may have guessed, are lower in density because they have a higher fat to protein ratio. Although referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol, LDL is still important as it is the primary transporter of cholesterol in your bloodstream, and is crucial for hormone production and the rebuilding of cell structures. However, too much LDL can have a detrimental impact on your health.
An excess of LDL in the bloodstream can lead to a build-up of cholesterol and other substances in the arteries called plaque. Plaque is a thick, hard deposit that can clog the arteries leading to a condition — atherosclerosis – a hardening and narrowing of the arteries. This can result in clotting and a reduction of blood flow to vital parts of your body, which can cause a heart attack or stroke. Thus, it is very important to keep the levels of LDL in your body under control.
HDL and LDL healthy levels:
If you find your cholesterol levels are out of range, it’s a good idea to get the advice of a qualified healthcare professional, which will be able to advise on the best course of action for you. One thing that’s worth knowing is that cholesterol levels, influenced by diet and lifestyle. Simple changes, like getting a balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight can all help to keep HDL and LDL levels healthy.
Some factors that affect your LDL and HDL levels are uncontrollable, such as family history and age, but there are other factors you can control. For example, decreasing the saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol in your diet can help lower your LDL levels. Filling your diet with fiber-rich foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and choosing lean meats and low-fat dairy products can also help decrease your LDL levels.
High cholesterol can be concerning. But in most cases, it’s a warning signal. Being, diagnosed with high cholesterol, doesn’t mean you’ll develop heart disease or have a stroke, but it should still be taken seriously. So, go to test immediately. If you have high cholesterol and act to reduce it, your risk of heart disease and stroke will most likely decrease.
Lifestyle steps that help reduce cholesterol also support your overall health. Exercise may also have a positive impact on your cholesterol levels. If you’re sedentary most of the day, move more. If you work at a desk, set an alarm on your cell phone or computer, or get a fitness tracker to remind you to get up and move for five minutes each hour. Try to fit in at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. Walking, swimming, or riding a bike is great options.
If you’re a smoker, talk to your doctor about how to stop. Smoking increases your risk of not only high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease, but also many types of cancer. If you don’t know your cholesterol numbers, ask your doctor about the test, especially if you have a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease. The earlier you know your cholesterol numbers, the sooner you can take steps to manage them.