All cholesterol isn’t created equally.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like substance found in the blood and in all the body’s cells. When it builds in the inner walls of your arteries over time, it hardens and turns into plaque. That plaque can narrow the artery walls and reduce blood flow, which can cause blocks that can lead to blood clots, heart attacks, or strokes.
Our bodies actually need cholesterol to function normally and stay healthy. We are capable of making all the cholesterol we need. It is high cholesterol foods and a family history that can cause problems.
There are two types of cholesterol: HDL (good) and LDL (bad). Understanding the difference and knowing the levels of each in your blood is crucial. Too much of one type, or not enough of another, can put you at risk.
- LDL (bad) cholesterol: When too much LDL is present in the bloodstream, arteries can clog and put you at risk for a heart attack or stroke. LDL is produced naturally by the body but is also passed down through families which can cause you to create too much. Consuming a diet high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fats also increases how much you have.
- HDL (good) cholesterol: Studies show high levels of HDL may remove excess plaque from your arteries, slowing its buildup and helping to protect against a heart attack. Low HDL levels can actually increase your risk.
- Triglycerides: This is a form of fat made in the body. If you are an inactive lifestyle, have a diet high in carbohydrates, smoke, are obese or drink too much alcohol, it can raise total cholesterol levels and lead to high LDL and low HDL levels.
Putting an end to bad cholesterol
Treatment guidelines focus on the patient’s target goal levels for total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. The specific numbers are important, in addition to your overall risk assessment and reduction opportunities. Working with your healthcare provider to customize the approach to treat your risk will achieve better results.
Heart disease is largely preventable if you work to lower your risks. Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to learn what your numbers are so you can lower them if you need to.
Women, in particular, need to be reminded to take care of their bodies and pay attention when something isn’t right. Women tend to focus on how everyone around us is feeling and we forget about ourselves.”
Contact Family Nutrition Center to schedule an appointment with our Registered Dietitians. Let us help you meet your health and nutrition goals.