Cholesterol is a word that often comes up in discussions about health, but what exactly is it and why does it matter? In this short digestible guide, we will explore the basics of cholesterol and its impact on our health.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is found in every cell of our body. It is essential for the production of hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help us digest food. However, too much cholesterol in our blood can lead to serious health problems.
Types of Cholesterol
There are two main types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL cholesterol is often referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol because it can build up in the walls of our arteries, leading to blockages and increasing the risk of heart disease. On the other hand, HDL cholesterol is known as ‘good’ cholesterol because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream.
Understanding Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol levels are measured through a blood test. The results will show the levels of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol. It is important to keep these levels within a healthy range to reduce the risk of heart disease.
For most adults, a desirable total cholesterol level is below 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). LDL cholesterol levels should be below 100 mg/dL, while HDL cholesterol levels should be above 40 mg/dL for men and above 50 mg/dL for women.
There are several lifestyle changes that can help manage cholesterol levels. Eating a healthy diet that is low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium can make a significant difference. Incorporating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins into your diet is key.
Regular exercise is another important factor in managing cholesterol. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Exercise helps increase HDL cholesterol levels and can lower LDL cholesterol.
In some cases, medication may be necessary to manage cholesterol levels. Statins are commonly prescribed to lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. It is important to work with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of action for your individual situation.
The Bottom Line
Cholesterol plays a crucial role in our overall health, but it is important to keep it in check. Understanding the different types of cholesterol and their impact on our health can help us make informed decisions about our lifestyle choices. By adopting healthy habits and working with healthcare professionals, we can take control of our cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.