Understanding Cholesterol: What You Need to Know
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance produced by the liver, and one of the most important molecules in your body. It’s necessary for your cells to produce hormones, vitamin D and to digest fatty foods. While your body naturally produces enough cholesterol for these essential processes, many foods contain additional cholesterol, too. When it comes to health, there are good and bad forms of cholesterol and it’s important to understand the differences.
What is “Good” Cholesterol?
Good cholesterol is known as high-density lipoprotein, or HDL. This type of cholesterol helps your body by removing low-density lipoproteins, otherwise known as bad cholesterol, from arteries and transporting it to the liver, where it can be broken down and eliminated.
What is “Bad” Cholesterol?
Bad cholesterol is known as low-density lipoprotein, or LDL. LDL is responsible for carrying cholesterol particles through your bloodstream and depositing them in various areas of the body, including your arteries. When LDL levels are too high, fatty deposits can accumulate in the walls of your arteries, leading to a condition called atherosclerosis. This can increase your risk of developing serious health issues, like heart attack, stroke and certain forms of heart disease.
How Can You Control Your Cholesterol Levels?
There are several steps you can take to help control your cholesterol and keep your heart healthy:
- Eat a Healthy Diet: Eating nutrient-rich foods, like whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables can help reduce your cholesterol levels and support your overall health.
- Get Regular Exercise: Regular physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week.
- Stop Smoking: Smoking can increase your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lower your HDL (“good”) cholesterol, increasing your risk of heart disease. Consider reaching out to a local smoking cessation program for help.
- Take Cholesterol-Lowering Medications: If lifestyle changes don’t lower your cholesterol levels, your doctor may recommend cholesterol-lowering medications like statins, which can help reduce LDL cholesterol.
By understanding what cholesterol is and what steps you can take to balance your levels, you can keep your heart healthy and take control of your health.
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