Benefits and risks of cholesterol to the body
Cholesterol is not just the demon you may have been led to believe. In fact, it is essential for the healthy functioning of the body. Cholesterol is used in almost every cell. So that it doesn’t dissolve in blood, Cholesterol is protected in a protein coating, called Lipoproteins. It is then circulated throughout the body. We wouldn’t survive without it. There are two types of Lipoproteins, or Cholesterol. Lipoproteins High Density (HDL) and Lipoproteins Low Density (LDL). When these are measured, along with a fifth of Triglyceride levels, we have a Cholesterol count. LDL is the bad Cholesterol. This contributes to the build up of harmful plaque in the arteries. HDL is the good Cholesterol. It actually helps remove LDL by collecting it from around the body and transporting it to the Liver where it is broken down and eliminated. Ideally, we want to have high levels of LDL and low levels of HDL.
Many of us have high levels of HDL. Having high Cholesterol levels is easily achieved due to the diets we eat and often the lack of exercise we do. Although the body needs Cholesterol, there are two types of Cholesterol which our bodies contain: Exogenus and Endogenous. Exogenous is the Cholesterol that we put into our bodies via the foods we eat. Endogenus is the Cholesterol innately produced by our bodies. The Liver is responsible for the production of Endogenus Cholesterol and it does so very well. It produces approximately 75% of all the Cholesterol that the body needs at any given time. Taking this statistic into account, it is not difficult to see why it is easy for us to be ingesting too much Cholesterol. We really only need a very small amount, yet Cholesterol is found in high content in many of the foods we regularly consume.
What is the Risk of Consuming Too Much Cholesterol?
When we are regularly consuming produce with high Cholesterol content it is difficult for our bodies to dispose of all the excess. The Liver already produces most of what the body needs and the rest is surplus to requirements, yet difficult to eliminate. These excess deposits sit in the walls of our arteries, particularly those leading to our hearts. Our arteries become hardened, clogged and restricted, meaning that blood flow in and out of our vital organs is obstructed. Sometimes this plaque residue can rupture, which releases stored up Cholesterol from the blood vessel – these clots can cause heart attacks or strokes. Those with high Cholesterol can be at risk of brain damage due to the restricted arteries leading to the brain, or to amputations due to restricted blood flow to limbs.
How Can I Minimize the Risk of High Cholesterol?
Diet is always a top ranker in terms of keeping our bodies healthy and reducing the risk of unpleasant illness. Most plant-based food does not contain Cholesterol. Fish, red meat, dairy products and poultry all contain Cholesterol, although some contain higher levels than others. Foods high in saturated fats increase Cholesterol levels so try to keep these to a minimum. These include: sausages and fatty meats, butter, cream, lard, ghee, hard cheese, cakes and biscuits. Where possible, try to replace these foods with produce that is high in unsaturated fats. These can help reduce Cholesterol. Foods high in non-saturated fats include: oily fish, nuts and seeds. Those with a diet high in carbohydrates also often have High Cholesterol levels.
Regular exercise can help lower your Cholesterol levels, especially exercise that gets your heart rate going and blood pumping around your body. Try to incorporate at least 15 minutes of gentle exercise into each day and a more rigorous 30-minute session, three to four times a week.
Eating well and including some form of exercise into your daily routine will also help keep your weight under control. Being overweight is an additional risk for a number of health problems, including high Cholesterol and the potential for heart problems.
Have Regular Health Checks
The National Cholesterol Education Program in the US advises everyone over the age of 20 to have their Cholesterol levels checked once every five years. If there are problems with your Cholesterol levels, these can often be reversed by paying better attention to diet and lifestyle. People who maintain good Cholesterol levels are at less risk of a number of potentially fatal diseases and live longer, healthier lives. It is also worth keeping an eye on Triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are fat stores for excess energy. The more fat your body is unable to use or eliminate, the higher the number of Triglycerides. Although researchers have still to discover much about Triglycerides, there could be a relationship between these and Coronary Artery Disease in women and people with other conditions such as Diabetes or Obesity.