Have you ever wondered why cholesterol levels are so important? You may have even done a Google search to find out where your levels should be, or asked, “what the heck is LDL and why is it bad?”
Cholesterol, while vital to the body, can be an indicator of serious health issues and should be addressed early. Keep reading to find out how cholesterol impacts your health and what to do about it.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty cell that circulates in our blood that is necessary for building cells, vitamins, and hormones. But when the body has too much cholesterol, it can cause serious health problems. If not treated, high cholesterol can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Let’s break down the science: Everyone has two types of cholesterol in their body, Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, and High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol. LDL leaves the fatty deposits behind in the arteries while HDL takes extra cholesterol to your liver.
Causes of High Cholesterol
There are many causes of high cholesterol, but the most common are:
- Poor Diet: Eating saturated fats and trans fats found in many commercial products can contribute to high cholesterol as well as red meat and fatty cuts of meat.
- Lack of Exercise: Exercise boosts the body’s good cholesterol (HDL)
- Smoking: Smoking cigarettes damages the walls of your blood vessels which makes them more susceptible to accumulating fatty deposits
- Diabetes: Diabetes causes higher levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers good cholesterol (HDL).
How does high cholesterol cause heart disease?
When LDL Cholesterol leaves behind its fatty deposits, it builds up on the arteries. This causes a condition called Atherosclerosis, which is the hardening and narrowing of the arteries. When your arteries narrow, your body has to work extra hard to get the appropriate blood flow to all of your organs. The buildup caused by cholesterol and other fats can break off which is the usual cause of heart attacks and strokes.
What are the warning signs of high cholesterol?
Unfortunately, there are no warning signs of high cholesterol. This is why it is important to regularly have your cholesterol checked. We recommend having your cholesterol checked every 5 years as an adult and if your results are less than optimal, your doctor may order your cholesterol more frequently.
How to Lower Cholesterol
Luckily for us, cholesterol is the most controllable contributor to heart disease. Various steps can be taken to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Some of the ways you can lower cholesterol are by eating a low-sodium and low-fat diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight. Other ways to maintain a healthy cholesterol level are by managing smoking and alcohol consumption as well as reducing stress.