Cholesterol is a word most of have heard, but not many understand. This article is designed to break it down in layman’s terms, and give you a better understanding. If you feel you may be at risk of high cholesterol, or haven’t had a check up in a while please consult your GP.
Cholesterol is a fat produced by the liver which plays a vital role in the functioning of the body. Some of its roles include;
- The building and maintenance of cell membranes
- The production of sex hormones and those released by the adrenal glands
- Converting sunshine to vitamin D
- Metabolising fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
- Stimulating nerve fibres
Cholesterol is carried around the body in the blood by molecules called lipoproteins. A lipoprotein is compound that contains both fat and protein. The three main types of lipoproteins are:
- LDL (low density lipoprotein)
This is the bad cholesterol. LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to cells. If too much is carried, then the cells contain too much for them to use. This can result in a harmful buildup of LDL. The danger of LDL is that it increases the risk of heart and artery diseases.
- HDL (high density lipoprotein)
This is the good cholesterol which does the opposite of LDL. HDL takes the cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver. Once in the liver cholesterol is either broken down or expelled from the body as waste.
- Triglycerides (the form in which most fat exists in the body, and food).
Triglycerides and cholesterol come together to form (in simple terms) fat in the blood. Triglycerides can enter the body from fat in the food we consume, or they can be made by the body from things such as stored carbohydrates. Essentailly if you consume more calories in a meal than your body will use, the remainder is stored in fat cells in the body for use at a later date. When your body needs energy and there is no food as an energy source, triglycerides will be released from the stored fat cells and can be used as energy.
The dangers of a high cholesterol levels in the body are;
- Heart attack and heart disease
- Arterial diseases
The simplest way to establish if you have high cholesterol or are at risk of any heart or artery diseases is to visit your doctor and ask for a cholesterol test. Once the doctor has your results they will be list as mg/dl (milligrams/deciliter) and mmol/liter (millimoles/liter).
The optimal results first number; mg/dl (milligrams/deciliter)
- Optimal – Less than 200 mg/dL
- Bordeline high – 200 to 239 mg/dL
- High – 240 mg/dL and above
The optimal results second number; mmol/liter (millimoles/liter)
- Optimal: less than 5mmol/liter
- Mildly high: between 5 to 6.4mmol/liter
- Moderately: between 6.5 to 7.8mmol/liter
- Very high: above 7.8mmol/liter
Once you GP has established what your cholesterol levels are they can give you advice on how to reach the optimal level through lifestyle changes, or the introduction of medication.
In next weeks article I will go through lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your likelihood of developing how cholesterol levels. Until then stay warm yorlye.