Cholesterol Basics

July 3, 2009

What is cholesterol and what measures can I take to keep it under control?

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat-like material present in the blood and most tissue.

Where does it come from?

Most of the cholesterol in your blood and body tissues is produced in the liver. The liver produces approximately 1000 milligrams of cholesterol a day. You get some of your cholesterol from the food you eat.

What does it do?

  • It helps the development of the embryo after conception.
  • It is an essential component of cell membranes.
  • It stimulates the formation of synapses(communication points) in the brain.
  • It is the basic ingredient of the hormones cortisol and testosterone and of Vitamin D.
  • It is an important ingredient of bile, the greenish liquid produced by the gall bladder that makes it possible for you to absorb fats that you eat and fat soluble vitamins like A,D, E and K.

Why is some cholesterol harmful?

Cholesterol is carried in the blood in lipoprotein molecules. The two lipoprotein molecules that are used to characterise cholesterol levels are high density lipoproteins(HDL),commonly known as “good cholesterol” and low density lipoproteins(LDL), commonly known as “bad cholesterol”. The former is a lipoprotein that has a reduced cholesterol content and thus is a very dense particle that cannot penetrate the lining of arteries to form plaque(cholesterol and fatty deposits)and the latter is a lipoprotein molecule that has more cholesterol content and less protein content they are less dense than HDL particles and can penetrate the lining of arteries to form plaque which can lead to increased risk of heart disease.

What are the leading causes of high cholesterol?

Poor diet coupled with reduced physical activity are the leading causes of high cholesterol. This matter has been worsened by the gaining popularity of convenience and processed foods that are high in saturated and trans fats.

What can I do to lower my total and LDL cholesterol?

  • Avoid trans fat.
  • Limit foods that are high in saturated fat. For example full fat dairy products and red meat.
  • Eat more foods with high unsaturated fat content like fruit, vegetables, fish, beans, nuts and seeds.
  • Exercise regularly.

Overall keep your cholesterol under control by having your doctor test it. If exercise and dietary measures are not enough then your doctor may prescribe cholesterol lowering medication.

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