Cholesterol is at the forefront of the public health consciousness, and keeping your cholesterol low seems to be a very important part of staying healthy. However, cholesterol is crucial for survival, and understanding its function in the body is a very useful.
So what is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a steroid, forming a component of fat, produced naturally in the liver, and as such is found in any foods containing fat. It is a vital part of healthy cell – and therefore bodily – function and due to this we could not survive without it After all, it is the trillions of specialised cells which make up our bodies. There are many things which cholesterol helps our bodies achieve, including:
- The building and repair of cell membranes
- The production of vitamin D
- Digestion, by producing stomach acids to digest food
So, it is far from being the stigmatised product that the public consciousness seems to impress upon us, since we need it, and produce it ourselves.
However, as with most things, too much cholesterol intake can over time become detrimental to your health, especially with older people. The reason, is that if your body intakes too much cholesterol, this can and line the walls of your blood vessels and thicken them, causing the constriction or even blocking of healthy blood flow. This, alongside vessel damage, can cause cardiovascular diseases (CVD), and relating to blood flow, like the ‘silent killer’, strokes.
It is always a good idea to monitor your cholesterol, and if you haven’t before, or in the last 5 years, to get it checked out, since you could be one of the estimated 50% of Americans that have high cholesterol levels. It is only a quick trip to the doctors, or you can invest in one of many easy to use home cholesterol testing kits.
It is important to your enemy, but also important to know your allies, since not all cholesterol is bad for you. LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) is the cholesterol that may thicken your arteries, and is bad. HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) is actually beneficial to you, and helps remove the LDL in your bloodstream. It is the LDL cholesterol that you want to reduce, and the LDL that can be a beneficial aid in your diet.
Most importantly in the dietary fight against LDL, is to monitor the types of fat you eat. These are much more significant than the cholesterol itself present in foods. Saturated fats (fried meats, chips, fast food) raise the cholesterol level in the blood, whereas unsaturated fats (olive oil, nuts, oily fish) help lower blood cholesterol. It is therefore a great idea to get less saturated, and more unsaturated fat in the diet. This method of lowering cholesterol naturally is for many the most effective option.
Of course if you find you have a severe problem, medication is always at hand from your doctor, and so is any expert information you should need, such as what should be a healthy cholesterol level for you.