What Is Cholesterol?
You’ve heard the doctor say to watch it. You’ve heard that some foods have an abundance of it – but exactly what is cholesterol? It’s true that cholesterol is found mainly in the types of food you eat, but that’s not the only way this waxy type of matter gets into the body.
Did you know that your liver makes cholesterol? Your body must have this substance in order to work properly and keep you in good health. When there’s an overabundance of cholesterol, that’s when health problems start building up.
Like too much of anything, a build up can damage the internal organs (the heart, liver, etc.). When you get too much cholesterol in your body, it can cause trouble for your arteries.
Imagine a drainpipe in your bathtub. What happens if it’s not treated (kept cleaned out) and deposits of hair are allowed to build up? The opening to allow water to drain gets smaller and smaller. Then one day when you get into the shower, the water has nowhere to go, so it pools at your feet.
This is essentially what happens when you have too much cholesterol. The arteries around the heart become too narrow for blood to adequately flow. This can lead to a blocked artery, which can then cause a heart attack and damage to the heart muscle.
Some people get confused about good versus bad cholesterol because cholesterol is broken into types. So what is cholesterol when it’s grouped into categories? It’s both good and bad.
First, you have triglycerides. This is fat. You get this fat from overindulging in food (even ones that are good for you). What you eat undergoes a form change within the body and triglycerides are one of these changes that occur from certain foods being consumed.
Foods like cakes, cookies, ice cream, candy, pies, etc. Triglycerides are also formed by drinking beer and other beverages containing alcohol. Secondly, low density lipoproteins (LDL) are a type of cholesterol. This one has the most potential to cause damage to your heart.
Third, high density lipoproteins (or HDL) is a cholesterol that’s very good for your heart. Think of this one as a shield in your body trying to battle back against the bad or the LDL cholesterol.
If your doctor tells you that you need to raise your level of HDL, it’s for your heart’s protection. Finally, there’s very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) and this is also a bad cholesterol.
More importantly than wondering, ‘what is cholesterol,’ you need to know what the levels are within your body. By taking a simple blood test and sending it to a lab, you can see how much cholesterol is in your blood.
If you have good HDL levels, it’s best for your heart’s health. If the results come back showing that you have both high triglycerides as well as high cholesterol, then your heart is in danger of developing heart disease or putting you at risk of a heart attack. Depending on the results, your doctor may prescribe lifestyle changes, medication or both in order to get your levels where they need to be.
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