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What is Cholesterol?



To understand why lowering cholesterol is important, it is first necessary to understand what cholesterol actually is.

Cholesterol is a fat-like waxy substance which is produced by the liver. It is a steroid, a lipid and an alcohol, found in the cell membranes of all body tissues and its name originates from the Greek 'chole' (bile) and 'stereos' (solid).

Although cholesterol has essential purposes and is important to overall health and body functions, too much cholesterol in the body can have damaging effects.

Cholesterol helps to form every cell which is in the body. When the cholesterol is at an adequate level, it plays a life-giving role in many functions of the body.

When cholesterol is at a healthy level it works to build and repair cells, producing hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, and also producing bile acids which are proven to aid in the digestion of fat.

However, with too much cholesterol in the body, levels build up and cause damage by clogging the arteries. This puts you at serious risk for diseases such as heart and stroke. Actually, the major cause behind heart attacks and strokes is clogged arteries which result from high levels of cholesterol.

When you eat saturated foods such as dairy, meat and eggs your cholesterol tends to rise. On the other hand, when you eat foods such as fruits, vegetables, and grains you can maintain optimal health because these foods don’t contain any cholesterol.

It is possible to avoid high cholesterol. With a diet which is high in nutrition, 50% of all adult Americans with high cholesterol can regain good health and lower their risk of disease by 2%. This is done very simply by reducing cholesterol by 1%.

Cholesterol can be managed for a healthier life. To do so, it is recommended that you visit your physician on a regular basis to keep a keen eye on your levels.

As we progress with "30 days to lower cholesterol" you will learn healthy alternatives that will help you to manage your cholesterol without having to rely on too much medication.

The purpose of this guide is to inform, teach and provide you with healthy options to what you already might have.

Understanding the Types of Cholesterol

Although most people talk about “cholesterol levels” there is in fact more than one type of cholesterol. There are actually several different body functions and several different substances that make up our understanding of the word “cholesterol.”

As with some other types of fat, cholesterol cannot be dissolved in the blood. Instead, molecules called lipoproteins carry cholesterol to and from cells. Molecules are made from an outer layer of protein and an inner core of both cholesterol and triglycerides, which is another form of fat.

Lipoproteins equip the cholesterol so it can move around the body. The two main types of lipoproteins are:

1. High Density Lipoproteins (HDL)

• HDL transports cholesterol from cells back to the liver.

• HDL is either reused or converted into bile acids disposed. This is known as "good" cholesterol. You want to ensure that your levels of this cholesterol remain high for best heart health, since having low levels of HDL - even when other cholesterol levels are normal - may lead you to heart problems.  As you work to lower your “bad cholesterol” it is important to also take steps and to keep your HDL at a normal level.

• HDL helps to ensure protection from the risk of heart attack and/or stroke. HDL consists of more protein than triglycerides or cholesterol, and helps to remove LDL from your artery walls.

2. Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL)

• LDL transports approximately 60-70% of cholesterol around the body and is known as “bad" cholesterol.

•  Studies show conclusively that high cholesterol leads to a much higher risk of heart attack and/or stroke. Other factors involved in this risk are age, gender, smoking, family history of heart disease, and diabetes mellitus.

In view of this, when we speak of having “cholesterol levels” we mean more than just one number.  To maintain optimum health, you will need to find out your levels of both LDL and HDL and will need to work hard to keep both levels within a healthy range.

Click here for the next step in our guide : What Causes Cholesterol?


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