Cholesterol concerns are high on the post-holiday list, as people tend to indulge in holiday dishes that are delicious and rich like there is no tomorrow.
A quick refresher on cholesterol basics should help people stay healthy even while enjoying good food, any time of the year.
Cholesterol is a “waxy” substance in body cells which has an important function. It is produced by the body, in the liver, and is used to produce hormones, vitamin D and substances that aid digestion. But too much cholesterol may be detrimental to the body and affect health. We take the most common questions about cholesterol and help shed light on the best way to have a “happy relationship” with cholesterol.
How do good cholesterol and bad cholesterol work?
High-density lipoproteins (HDL) or good cholesterol and low-density Lipoproteins (LDL) or bad cholesterol travel through the blood to accomplish their mission. HDL escorts cholesterol in the body back to the liver where it can be broken down and flushed out. LDL bring cholesterol from the liver to other cells, and if there is more cholesterol than needed by these cells, then the cholesterol goes to the blood. This in turn can cause blockage in arteries, and may result in restricting the blood flow.
What are the acceptable or safe levels of cholesterol?
The numbers to watch out for include:
- Total cholesterol not higher than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
- HDL ("good") cholesterol more than 60 mg/dL
- LDL (“bad”) cholesterol not higher than 100 mg/dL
- Triglycerides levels not over 150 mg/dL
How does high cholesterol affect the body?
Above normal levels of cholesterol impact on the body in different ways, such as:
- Stiffening and narrowing of arteries
- Reduced or blocked blood flow from plaque buildup
What are the signs of high cholesterol?
These are the common indicators of aggravated cholesterol levels:
- Chest pain
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Pain while walking due to difficulty of blood flow to the legs
- Other circulatory ailments
What are the common causes of high cholesterol?
There are many factors that contribute to high cholesterol, including:
- Poor diet, especially one with too much saturated fat from dairy products, fatty meats and commercially-baked goods and sweets
- Obesity, a body mass index of 30 or more increases risks
- Large waist size, wider waist circumference bears watching: 35 inches or more for women and 40 inches or more for men
- Sedentary or inactive lifestyle, less activity leads to cholesterol formation
- Smoking, which reduces HDL in the body and injures the inner lining of arteries, making it easier for fats to stick to blood vessels
There are many ways to prevent or avoid increased cholesterol levels. Exercise, at least 30 minutes daily, is recommended to boost good cholesterol levels. Changes in lifestyle, particularly diet, are doable steps to keep the bad cholesterol down. Most importantly, seek the advice of your doctor on the treatment and management of cholesterol issues.