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Good and Bad Cholesterol

More than one-half of American adults have too high blood cholesterol levels. It is starting to be a national disease not only in America. High levels of cholesterol greatly increase the chances of heart attack; for every one percent you lower your blood cholesterol level, you reduce your risk for heart disease by two percent – so it’s a double payback. Even if you already have heart disease, lowering your cholesterol levels will reduce your risk for death and disability.

With our daily food we need to have our blood cholesterol level measured at least once every five years.

Cholesterol is a waxy fatty substance (lipid) found in animal tissue and fat.

There are three main types of fats in our body: High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) or often called ‘good’ cholesterol, Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) – or so-to-say ‘bad’ cholesterol and triglycerides – which level is increased if you eat too many carbohydrates. Cholesterol is needed in our body as it aids in the production of cell membranes, some hormones, vitamin D andthe bile acids that help to digest fat.

How does our body get cholesterol? It comes from two sources: the liver makes most of the cholesterol in our body; the rest (the small percentage of it) comes with the food you consume. What products contain the cholesterol: kidney and beef, liver, sponge cake, butter, boiled egg, poultry, fish and some other products that contain twice less of the amount – beefsteak, chicken, ice cream, cream cheese and Cheddar cheese. The more saturated fat we eat, the more cholesterol our bodies make. In the food of plant origin there is no cholesterol. One takes the meal and after it cholesterol is absorbed by the intestines into ones blood circulation. It travels along the blood in so-called packages inside a protein cover.

The liver is responsible not only for producing the cholesterol, but is capable of removing cholesterol from the blood circulation as well. After the meal the liver removes those packages of cholesterol inside protein cover. And than the liver produces and secretes cholesterol back into the blood circulation.

Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL)

It is also called ‘bad’ cholesterol. High levels of LDL are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. This cholesterol causes the formation of a hard, thick substance called cholesterol plaque in your blood. This can leads to the thickening of the artery walls and narrowing of the arteries making it hard for blood to flow. This process is called atherosclerosis.

To take it low you should:

- Exercise (at least 30 minutes per day will give you a good result);

- avoid foods high in saturated fat and use less oil, butter, margarine, and other fats when cooking; choose low-fat dairy products, whole-grains for breads and cereals; eat more fruits and vegetables; choose foods high in monosaturated fats, such as olive or canola oils and nuts; bake, broil, grill or roast foods rather than fry them;

- stop smoking;

- reduce alcohol;

- maintain a healthy weight;

- keep your blood glucose levels under control.

High Density Lipoproteins (HDL)

Often called ‘good’ cholesterol. This type of cholesterol prevents atherosclerosis. It takes extra cholesterol in your blood back to your liver so your body can get rid of it. In other words HDL cholesterol transports the cholesterol particles to the liver to be disposed through the bile.

One gets high risk of atherosclerosis when one has high levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol (high LDL/HDL ratios). Desired picture is when one has low levels of LDL cholesterol and high level of HDL cholesterol (low LDL/HDL ratios). Total cholesterol is the sum of LDL, HDL, VLDL and IDL (VLDL - very low density, IDL - intermediate density) cholesterols.

To have your HDL to be as high as possible you need to do the same – give up smoking and say hello to the good eating habits and regular exercises.

Different levels of cholesterol can run in families. Families with low HDL cholesterol levels have a higher incidence of heart attacks, if you have a relative with such a problem your HDL levels tend to be low as well. And in families with high HDL cholesterol levels people usually live longer with a lower frequency of heart attacks (even if they do not very much control the cholesterol issue).

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Life style factors influence the levels of cholesterol. If you smoke, eat a lot of sweets, inactive and overweight – you have lower HDL cholesterol than those who are lean, exercise regularly, do not smoke and eat good foods. The fact that women usually have higher levels of HDL cholesterol is because estrogen (woman’s hormone) increases a person's HDL cholesterol.

Cholesterol question is another reason to do our first duty of our lives – to cherish our body, to take care of it so we can leave whatever is given to us. There is a harmony in everything. Good healthy food and active interesting life together with absence of bad life habits longer your life and make your days to come healthier.

Valentyna Ant.

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