When most of us hear the word ‘cholesterol’ we often think it means something bad or unhealthy
and of course, that is the general view about it. Although I wouldn't say cholesterols are good or
bad, I hope at the end of this article, you will know all about cholesterol.
What then are cholesterols?
Cholesterol is a type of lipid. It is a waxy, fat-like substance that the liver produces naturally. It
is vital for the formation of cell membranes, certain hormones and vitamin D. However,
cholesterol can't travel through the blood on its own because it does not dissolve in water, which
is why the liver produces lipoproteins that help transport them.
Lipoproteins are particles made from fat and protein. They carry cholesterol and triglycerides
(another type of lipid) through the bloodstream.
The two major forms of lipoprotein are Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and High-density
lipoprotein (HDL). If the blood contains too much LDL cholesterol (cholesterol carried by low-
density lipoprotein), it is known as HIGH CHOLESTEROL. When left untreated, high
cholesterol can lead to many health problems, including heart attack or stroke.
High cholesterol typically causes no symptoms. That is why it is important to get your
cholesterol levels checked on a regular basis. One’s way of life or lifestyle have been proven to
contribute to having high cholesterol. Lifestyles like inactivity, alcoholism, smoking, unhealthy
eating habits , to mention a few are all contributing factors. Moreover, genetics can also affect
one’s chance of developing high cholesterol. Certain genes instruct the body on how to process
cholesterol and fats. Take for example, if your parents or one of your parents have high
cholesterol, you are at risk of having it too. In rare cases high cholesterol is caused by 'familial
hypercholesterolemia'. This genetic disorder prevents the body from removing LDL. Other
health conditions such as diabetes and hypothyroidism, may also increase the risk of developing
high cholesterol and related complications.
What you need to know about cholesterol levels
Low density lipoprotein or ‘bad cholesterol’
LDL cholesterol is often called "bad cholesterol." It carries cholesterol to the arteries. If the level
of LDL cholesterol is too high in the body, it can build up on the walls of the arteries. The build
up is known as cholesterol plaque. This plaque can narrow the arteries, limit blood flow, and
increase the risk of blood clots. If a blood clot blocks an artery in the heart or brain, it can cause
a heart attack or stroke.
High density lipoprotein or ‘good cholesterol’
HDL cholesterol is sometimes called "good cholesterol." It helps return LDL cholesterol to the
liver to be removed from the body. This helps prevent cholesterol plaque from building up in
arteries. Healthy levels of HDL cholesterol, it can help lower the risk of blood clots, heart
disease and stroke. Simple blood tests can be used to measure the blood’s triglyceride level, as
well as cholesterol levels.