Understanding Your Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is produced by the liver. The substance is also found in foods that we eat, such as animal products, because they too produce cholesterol. Most times when people think cholesterol they think “bad.” However, this is not necessarily the case. The truth is our body needs cholesterol because it is a vital function that helps our bodies to absorb vitamin D and bile acids, as well as produce hormones. Maintaining healthy cholesterol is the key.
Cholesterol screenings will show you two types of cholesterol, “Bad” LDL (Low-density lipoprotein) and “Good” HDL (High-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.
The LDL cholesterol is considered “bad” for the body because when too much of it circulates in the blood, it can clog arteries by forming a plaque, thus increasing your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
The HDL is the “good” type of cholesterol for your body because it cleans your body of LDL cholesterol and circulates it back to the liver where it is properly disposed.
Normal cholesterol levels are considered to be the following:
• 100 mg/dL or less
• Men – Around 40mg/dL
• Women – Around 50mg/dL
• Total Cholesterol
• Both men and women – Below 200mg/dL
You typically want to have higher levels of HDL than the norm to ensure that your body is cleansing itself of the LDL cholesterol to prevent plaque build-up.
So, how can you monitor you cholesterol levels? You really want to watch your fat intake. Like cholesterol, there are “bad fats” and “good fats.”
Saturated and Trans fats are considered your “bad fats.” Eating too many of these fats directly increases your LDL levels, thus making your total cholesterol higher with bad cholesterol.
Trans fats are by far the worst because they increase bad cholesterol, while also decreasing good cholesterol.
Unsaturated fats are considered your “good fats” and there are two types of these; monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
Monounsaturated fats are found in high concentrations in foods like canola, peanut, and olive oils; avocadoes; sesame and pumpkin seeds; as well as nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans.
Polyunsaturated fats are found in high concentrations in sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils, and also in foods such as walnuts, flax seeds, and fish.
By simply adding or cooking with some of these foods each day, you can greatly decrease your bad LDL cholesterol levels.
However, there are also other practices you can do to help lower your cholesterol and maintain a healthy level:
• Exercise regularly
• Quit smoking
• Eat more fruits and vegetables
• Multi-vitamin with Omega 3
For more information on cholesterol, please visit the American Heart Association www.heart.org/HEARTORG/