Cholesterol: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Understanding cholesterol and how is effects the body can be a tricky subject, since there are two different types of cholesterol. Generally, when we talk about having high cholesterol, we mean the "bad' kind, commonly called LDL cholesterol. By studying the LDL cholesterol and learning the results of high LDL cholesterol in your body, you can help keep yourself healthy and prevent things such as strokes and heart attacks, both of which can potentially be fatal.

Cholesterol is something that we need in the body. This substance is a soft, waxy fat found in the blood stream and used in the production of cell membrane and hormones. Without some amount of cholesterol in our bodies, we would die. However, cholesterol is produced in the liver, and so it is rarely necessary that we need to ingest extra amounts of this substance in order to live. Unfortunately, high amounts of cholesterol are found in many foods, leading some people to develop hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol.

High cholesterol isn't actually the problem-the result, however, is, and this can be a very serious problem. Cholesterol is carried through the blood stream to all parts of your body by low density lipoprotein (LDL). When there is extra cholesterol in the body, the body produces extra lipoprotein to carry it to and from different parts of the body. These lipoproteins can be dangerous in large numbers. When there's too much in the blood stream, the body cannot absorb it and it sticks to the walls of your veins and arteries, growing hard and creating what is called plaque. If too much plaque builds up on your blood vessels' walls, if can completely block off the blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack. A chunk of the plaque could also break off and travel up the blood stream until the vessels get too small, near the brain. This cuts off the blood supply to the brain, causing a stroke. In either case, too much plaque can be fatal.

Generally, high cholesterol can be controlled through diet and medication. Your doctor can help you find a plan of action that works for you. Not all cholesterol is bad, so if you're a healthy person in general, watching your trans fat intake and the amount of high-level cholesterol foods you eat, such as seafood and egg yolks, should be enough to keep your LDL cholesterol at a healthy level.

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