Cholesterol’s Highs and Lows

We hear a lot of talk about lowering out cholesterol. The importance of lowering this waxy, fat-like substance is to reduce your risk for heart disease, only the number one killer of Americans. And, yeah, cholesterol can potentially affect anyone.

Understanding how this waxy substance negatively impacts your body might motivate you to reconsider your lifestyle.

Your body has the ability to make all the cholesterol it needs. It is found in the walls of cells in all parts of the body, as well as being used to make hormones, bile acids, vitamin D, and other necessary substances. Cholesterol plays an essential role in your fitness.

However, cholesterol and blood do not mix so it cannot circulate around your body by itself. So your body packages it for traveling in what is called lipoproteins. This substance is composed of fat (lipid) inside and protein outside and there are two main kinds of cholesterol carrying lipoproteins in your blood. One kind carries cholesterol to the tissue and the other carries it away to your liver for excretion.

One type of lipoprotein is low density, or LDL. It is called “bad” cholesterol because it carries cholesterol to tissues, including the arteries. Most of the cholesterol in the blood is the LDL form and less is better.

The other type of lipoprotein is high density lipoprotein, or (HDL). It is the good” cholesterol because it takes cholesterol from tissues to the liver, for removal from your body. More is better.

When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, some of the excess can become trapped in artery walls. Over time, this builds up and is called plaque. The plaque can narrow vessels and make them less flexible, a condition called atherosclerosis or “hardening of the arteries.”

This process can happen to blood vessels anywhere in your body, including the heart. Should you heart’s coronary arteries become partly blocked by cholesterol created plaque, then your heart muscle may not receive enough oxygen and nutrients to function properly. This can cause chest pain, or angina.

Plaque is also a concern because they have a thin covering and can burst, releasing cholesterol and fat into the bloodstream. This release can cause a blood clot to form over the plaque, blocking blood flow through the artery and causing a heart attack.

As you can see the concern over cholesterol has various components to which each, alone or in concert, has potential devastating health consequences. Have your cholesterol levels checked if you haven’t already.

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