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Cholesterol Blog ~ Part I

Let’s start with, what exactly is cholesterol; it’s a yellowish, wax-like substance looking much like fat.About 25% of our cholesterol comes from our diet (animal products) while the rest is manufactured by our liver.The body, more specifically the liver produces about 1000mg a day while your diet supplies about another 500 to 900mg.This is two to three times more than what is needed.This substance called cholesterol travels from the liver through the bloodstream to the cells.The cells take what they need and the rest remains in the bloodstream. Our diet should be limited to contributing about 300mg a day.Now don’t frown and say that you aren’t going to watch every thing you eat.It can be done with very little thought. Becoming aware of foods is the first step, exercise is the next, and the third is reducing that all to common Stress.

Does it do anything? Yes, remember, it’s found in all of your cells, primarily as a structural component of cell membranes, and yes, it has many vital functions. Cholesterol is used to help in the formation of Bile Salts, Vitamin D and is stored in your adrenal glands, testes, and ovaries; it serves as a precursor molecule for hormones; such as sex hormones, androgens, and estrogens. Adrenal corticoids (including cortisol, corticosterone, and aldosterone).

Cholesterol in the liver functions as the precursor of bile acids, which, when secreted into the intestine, aid in the digestion of your food, especially fats. It is abundant in the brain and nervous system as well. It is the major sterol in the human body and is found throughout the animal kingdom and with very little found in plants, but what is found there is called phytosterols.

Bile (a fat emulsifier) is made by the liver, stored in the gallbladder and released into the digestive tract to break down fats consumed. This bile transports the cholesterol from the body through your bowel movement (which must be every day if not twice, at least once)

Which brings us to the ultimate question; what level is adequate in the body and when is it too high? Before we answer that lets complicate it a little more by saying cholesterol is not just cholesterol but we have good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Cholesterol is insoluble in water and so it must attach to a protein to be carried through the bloodstream. This combination of cholesterol linked to a protein is called a lipoprotein.

A lipoprotein with a large amount of protein is your “good” cholesterol, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) which is a dense, compact microparticle that transports excess cholesterol to the liver, where it is altered and expelled in the bile. In a more general sense your HDL’s help remove cholesterol from the blood, preventing it from piling up in the arteries. You can look at this in another way, this one is higher in protein and lower in cholesterol.

The lipoprotein carrying a large amount of cholesterol is the “bad” cholesterol; your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) which is a larger, less dense particle that tends to remain in the body, thus promoting the coagulation in the bloodstream and the high cholesterol effect. This one is higher in cholesterol and lower in protein.

But we should also mention the VLDLs (very low-density lipoproteins) which are molecules that transport “triglycerides”, chemical compounds that store fatty acids, an essential source of energy for the body. But…..these triglycerides are a type of blood fat, they travel with the cholesterol and if they are to high in quantity resulting in high levels of triglycerides they will cause the blood cells to stick together, thus reducing circulation, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke!

Okay, you’re saying what about the cholesterol level, what should your cholesterol level be? Did you know that cholesterol levels start to rise by the age of 20, with rising more sharply by the age of 40 and continuing to increase until around the age of 60. A desirable total cholesterol level for adults without heart disease is lower than 200 mg/dl (or 200 milligrams per deciliter of blood). A level of 240 mg/dl or higher is considered high blood cholesterol.

Say you have cholesterol levels in the borderline high category (200 to 239 mg/dl), which can still increase the risk of heart disease, but if your HDL’s are high this will decrease your risk. Are you confused again?

Let’s put it this way. When your cholesterol is tested, they should also test the levels of your HDL’s and your LDL’s. Remember your HDL’s carry the unwanted LDL’s from the body, these are the “good guys” and you want this number to be higher. A HDL level lower than 35 is a major risk factor for heart disease. A HDL level of 60 or higher is considered protective. Also remember a high triglyceride number also increases the risk of heart disease because these are causing your cells to stick together. They usually test this level as well. Our blood cells are supposed to flow individually through our bloodstream. Which, if you think about it increases oxygen flow through the body and influences circulation resulting in increased memory, increased warmth, and healthier lungs.

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