Cholesterol can be a confusing topic, especially when the phrases “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol” are thrown around. What many people don’t realize is that there are multiple kinds of cholesterol and that a healthy balance of cholesterol is necessary to keep our body’s cells healthy. But how do you distinguish the “good” type from the “bad” type? We’ve gathered some information that can help you better understand cholesterol and manage yours better.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance known as a lipid that circulates through the blood and helps build cell membranes. It’s produced by the liver, though certain foods like animal products and meat can trigger the liver to produce more. Cholesterol comes in two main forms: Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL).
LDL is “bad” cholesterol. It can harm your health by collecting on the walls of your arteries. This narrows them, making them less flexible, and thereby increases your risk of heart attack or stroke.
HDL is “good” cholesterol. It circulates through the blood vessels and is helpful in building cells. It also carries other forms of cholesterol (like LDL) away from the walls of blood vessels so they don’t stick together.
Triglycerides are also part of the equation. The most common form of fat in the body, they store extra energy, but can also be harmful. A high quantity of triglycerides can influence weight conditions and can combine with LDL to create blockages in blood vessels and arteries.
How Does Cholesterol Affect Health?
Maintaining a healthy balance of cholesterol can go a long way towards maintaining your overall wellness and keeping your circulatory system healthy. High cholesterol levels usually indicate that your body has too much LDL and not enough HDL. This can increase your risk of developing heart disease or experiencing a stroke. A good balance of cholesterol in your blood is a higher amount of HDL and a low amount of triglycerides and LDL. Cholesterol levels can be managed through proper nutrition, regular physical activity, and quitting unhealthy habits such as smoking. Your doctor can also measure your cholesterol levels with a simple blood test.
How to Maintain A Healthy Cholesterol Balance
The idea of going back and forth with good forms of cholesterol and bad forms of cholesterol can certainly be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are steps you can take. Here are a few broken down into bite-size tips:
Eating a balanced diet with lean meats, healthy fats, nuts, whole grains, and legumes can help reduce your risk of high cholesterol.
Regular exercise, even in the form of daily walks, makes a huge difference in overall health. Physical activity burns calories and helps reduce the amount of fat and LDL cholesterol in your body.
Tobacco products contain substances that can have a negative impact on many processes within your body. They can make LDL cholesterol “stickier” and more likely to form blockages in your arteries, and they decrease the amount of HDL in your blood.
Every person has a weight that is healthy for them, and maintaining a healthy weight for your particular body type can help reduce the risk of triglyceride and LDL buildup.
Get A Cholesterol Check
All adults should get a regular cholesterol check to make sure their levels are good. These checks should occur about every five years, or as frequently as recommended by your doctor.
Keeping An Eye On Your Cholesterol
When in doubt about your cholesterol health, keep the three C’s in mind:
- Check your cholesterol levels. Knowing your numbers is important when assessing your risk.
- Change your diet and lifestyle to help improve your cholesterol levels.
- Control your cholesterol, with help from your doctor if needed.
There are a variety of medications that can help you manage your cholesterol, but always discuss this option with your doctor before moving forward with a prescription.
If you have concerns about your cholesterol levels and how they may be affecting your overall health, our providers are here to help determine your risk and guide you along a path of wellness. To learn more about cholesterol or get tested, contact us today to schedule an appointment!