With all the talks of obesity and America’s race for thin bodies, cholesterol has suffered a beating. It is even one of the main figures in the development of hypertension, that contribute much to coronary heart disease. Often seen as the culprit in “fattening” America, cholesterol has become a food taboo, something that must be avoided at all costs.
What people do not know though is that there are two kinds of cholesterol and one kind is actually beneficial to the body. In fact, it is one of the essential substances that our bodies need to maintain balance.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a substance that can be found in fats or in lipids. Lipids are important because it is used to form cell membrane, used to balance hormones and help in other bodily functions. Too much cholesterol though tends to clog the bloodstream, eventually leading to heart disease. And because cholesterol cannot easily dissolved, only transported, the risk of build-up is great. As mentioned earlier, there two kinds of cholesterol, the LDL and the HDL cholesterol.
The bad cholesterol
The LDL cholesterol is frequently referred to as the “bad cholesterol” because too much of these can accumulate in the walls of the arteries and clog the blood stream that leads to the heart and the brain. This build up, called atherosclerosis, which can eventually lead to a heart attack or a stroke (brain attack) depending on where the arteries are leading to.
High LDL increases the risk for heart disease so it important that it is kept at normal range, which is below 100 mg/dL.
The good cholesterol
The HDL cholesterol on the other hand is referred to as the good cholesterol as high levels seem to protect a person from heart disease and hear attacks. According to some experts, instead of staying at the arteries like the LDL, HDL leaves the arteries and instead goes to the liver. In contrast with LDL levels, a low HDL increases the risk for heart attack. Levels of HDL should not be below 40 mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dL for women. Regular exercise has been found to increase the levels of HDL.
Cholesterol in food
Foods that come from animals contain cholesterol levels. Just how much depends on the kind of animal food. vegetables however do not contain any cholesterol.
In addition to the cholesterol that we get from food, the body is also capable of producing its own cholesterol. This creates a problem in overproduction since we also take in cholesterol through the foods that we eat. Average individuals or those who do not have any heart problems should only take in about 300 milligrams.
For people who are already at risk for coronary heart disease and heart attack, physicians recommend the reduction in the intake of cholesterol. They should only take in less than 200 milligrams. Everyone is also advised to keep their consumption of saturated fats to a minimum, as these can significantly help in lowering the risk for heart disease.
People, who have severe high blood pressure, are however advised to take in no more than six ounces of lean meat and fish daily. They should also choose the products thatv they buy and ensure that they are fat free or low-fat.