Is all cholesterol bad for you?
What runs through your mind when you think about cholesterol?
- Cholesterol will clog your veins
- Cholesterol will kill you
- Cholesterol increases the risk of a heart attack.
These are the common messages we hear when it comes to cholesterol.
But is all cholesterol bad?
In this post, we will talk about what cholesterol is, when cholesterol is good for you and how to reduce “bad” cholesterol in your blood.
Let’s dive in.
Cholesterol: The good, the bad and the ugly
First of all, what is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a biological chemical that is produced by the cells in your body.
It is produced by your cells and forms an important part of your cells called the cell membrane. The cell membrane is
It is a product of your cells that forms an important part of your cells- the cell membrane. The cell membrane is the outermost part of a cell that keeps chemicals out and allows essential chemicals in depending on the needs of your body.
Apart from its’ important role as part of cell membranes, cholesterol also serves as a precursor chemical for the formation of certain hormones, bile acid and vitamin D in the body.
Because cholesterol is a solid fat molecule, the downside of having too much cholesterol in your body is that over time, it will accumulate in blood vessels and form plaque.
This of course leads to all types of hearth disease and eventually, death.
And this is why cholesterol has gotten a bad rap over the years.
Usually by the time the problem is recognized, it is too late.
So as you can see, cholesterol is good for you on the one hand because it helps with the formation of your cell membranes. Yet on the other, there are bad implications if you have too much of it.
So when is cholesterol good for you?
To fully understand this, it is important to discuss the kinds of cholesterol that exist.
Cholesterol can be grouped into two major categories namely low density lipoproteins (LDLs) and high density lipoproteins (HDLs).
LDLs are the bad type of cholesterol. When a doctor says your cholesterol is high, they are most likely talking about high levels of LDLs versus your HDLs which is the type of the cholesterol your body needs.
Thus your goal should be to reduce your LDLs and add in more sources of HDLs into your diet.
Scientific research suggests that HDLs act in ways to clear your body of LDLs. Thus when HDLs are high, it is good for you.
Foods that contain saturated fats such as butter, ghee, hard margarines and fatty meats are particularly high in LDLs. Reduce the amounts of these foods in your diet.
Foods that are high in HDLs include olive oil, beans, legumes, nuts, chia seeds and flax.
How to keep your cholesterol at healthy levels
Keeping your cholesterol at a healthy level starts with regular check-ups with your doctor. During these visits, it is likely that you will have blood work done.
Keeping an eye on the blood work levels is important information that will help you take decisions to reduce your risk for bad cholesterol in your blood.
You have the right to ask your doctor for the results and study them for yourself.
Don’t leave your healthcare into the hands of your doctor.
You (or if you are a caregiver) are your own best health advocate.
If those results suggest that your LDLs are high, it is then time to make the necessary changes required for reducing your cholesterol levels.
Four ways to reduce your cholesterol without medication
- Limit your intake of foods that are high in LDLs like we mentioned above and increasing your intake of foods high in HDLs.
- Exercise. Losing weight reduces the incidence of cholesterol-related problems.
- Eating an overall balanced diet with the right amount of proteins, carbohydrates and good fats.
- Quitting smoking.
So is all cholesterol bad for you? It depends on which cholesterol type you’re looking at.
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