What is Good Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is an intimidating word. We hear our health care providers talk about it. We know we should watch it. But what is it? And is it all that important? Cholesterol is part of the food we eat and it is naturally found in the cells of your bodies. Your liver creates all the cholesterol the body needs to function well.
Cholesterol is a substance similar to fat, but waxy. It travels through your body in your bloodstream but doesn’t mix with the watery blood, in the same way that oil and water don’t mix. There are two different kinds of lipoproteins that bring cholesterol through your bloodstream. Healthy rates of these lipoproteins are important. Lipoproteins are the “L” in HDL and LDL.
Good vs. Bad Cholesterol
There are two different types of cholesterol. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) is often called “good cholesterol.” It carries cholesterol away from your cells to the liver which removes it from the body. HDL actually helps remove cholesterol from your artery walls where it can build up as plaque. So, you want high-density lipoprotein levels (HDL) to be fairly high.
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are tasked with bringing cholesterol to the cells, including the arteries which delivers blood to the heart. Because LDL cholesterol may cause plaque build up on the walls of your arteries it is often called “bad cholesterol.” This is what makes cholesterol dangerous to your health. It can cause you to be at risk for such serious health problems as heart attack and stroke. So, you want low-density lipoproteins (HDL) to be low.
High blood cholesterol results from the interaction between how we eat, live and how our bodies respond to those choices. Atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease and angina are possible if high blood cholesterol goes unchecked.
What can you do to have a healthy cholesterol reading?
First, look at the foods that you are eating. There is LDL cholesterol in foods that come from animal sources: cheese, egg yolks, butter, meat. Read labels before you buy, looking for trans fats or saturated fats (processed meat such as sausages, burgers and salami, pastry, fatty or fried foods among others). Cut back on these because you want LDL to be low.
Add foods high in HDL to your daily diet: olives; nuts; seeds; canola, sunflower or safflower oil; oily fish; lean meats and lean poultry. Ask your healthcare provider for diet suggestions.
Next, go check your weight. Although not always the case, if you are overweight you may see an increase in your LDL level. Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet and cut back on processed bakery goods.
Finally, get active. Lack of regular exercise can cause weight gain, which in turn raises your LDL cholesterol level. Regular and on-going exercises can help you get back on track to healthy weight levels and enable you to lower your LDL level. Also, it helps raise your HDL level.
It is hard to detect high blood cholesterol because it does not show any causes or symptoms which can be misleading to many people may not even be aware of it. Only a blood test can identify your cholesterol levels. Discuss it with your doctor if they need to prescribe medicine for your high cholesterol and follow their advice.