Whenever a person hears the word “cholesterol”, it seem that they automatically think of something that is negative. However, cholesterol is a substance that is already in every cell of our bodies. Cholesterol does not only enter the body through the foods that we eat, but 75% of the body’s cholesterol is actually made in the liver. While our body may actually require cholesterol, we still need to try to keep a balance between the “good” types of cholesterol and the “bad”. Let’s explore a few of the myths that are often told about cholesterol so that we can better understand why and how our body reacts to it.
A lot of people assume that any type of cholesterol is bad for the body and can lead to serious problems like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. However, there are actually two different types of cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein is a “good” type of cholesterol, and it can be used for digestion, to create Vitamin D, estrogen and testosterone. It even collects “bad” cholesterol to be deposited in the liver. Low-density lipoprotein is the “bad” type of cholesterol that is the real culprit and the cause for all of the negative reactions to all forms of cholesterol, often leading to narrow and hardened arteries.
A lot of people seem to associate the consumption of eggs with an individual having high cholesterol. It is a fact that eggs do contain up to 200 mg of dietary cholesterol, which is more than half of what the American Heart Association suggests a person should ingest within a single day. However, when the body’s intake of cholesterol through foods rises, the body automatically begins to adjust by creating less cholesterol. Therefore, having an egg or two a few times a week typically won’t cause any harm to your body, especially since it is a great source of protein.
Many people just assume that high cholesterol usually only affects adults, specifically those that are middle-aged and older. However, even children can have high cholesterol. In fact, if a child is obsess, has high blood pressure or a family history of high cholesterol, physicians typically begin testing for high cholesterol as early as age two. If a child does have high cholesterol, they are put on a diet low in saturated fats, plus are encouraged to begin a regular exercise regimen. It is very important that the arteries do not begin to harden and narrow at such an early age.
Often people who are trying to eat healthier foods don’t actually know exactly what to watch out for on the food labels. Thinking that just because a food does not contain any cholesterol that it is a healthy option can be very misleading. High levels of fat, especially saturated fat and trans fat, are definitely huge factors in contributing to lower-density lipoprotein, which can easily lead to atherosclerosis, which is the hardening and narrowing of the arteries due to a buildup of plaque along their walls. When shopping, be sure to pay special attention to the labels on packaged foods and animal and dairy products.
Many people have been told that the only truly effective way to lower cholesterol is by being place on a prescription drug for high cholesterol. However, we have all seen those Cheerios commercials, so we also know that eating a heart-healthy diet can also help lower an individual’s cholesterol. While some patients are place on medication to stop the buildup of plaque in their arteries, it does not mean that diet and exercise are no longer needed to keep “bad” cholesterol levels down. It often takes a variety of methods to ensure that our bodies remain healthy, not merely by taking a pill in the morning.
Smoking actually lowers the levels of high-density lipoprotein (“good” cholesterol) that are found in the human body. The HDL help remove some of the low-density lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol) by depositing it into the liver, so the less HDL around, then the more LDL will remain in the body. Plus, smoking adds to the plaque that is already building up in the arteries due to high cholesterol, so smoking only adds to speed in which the plaque continues to build. As that smoking is already a leading contributor to heart disease, coupling it with high cholesterol can produce highly dangerous results.
A lot of people do not immediately see the link between what can cause high blood pressure and high cholesterol. However, it is a fact that having high cholesterol can be a contributing factor for a patient suffering from the effects of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. High cholesterol causes the arteries to harden and narrow, due to the plaque buildup caused by the cholesterol. When this occurs, the heart has to work even harder than it normally does to pump the blood through these somewhat constricted arteries, and this extra effort causes the pressure of the blood to rise.
Everyone knows that when a person suffers from diabetes, they must constantly keep a check on their blood sugar levels. However, even when the blood sugar levels are considered “normal” for a diabetic person, an occurrence called diabetic dyslipidemia can raise the lower-density lipoprotein, while also lowering the levels of the higher-density protein. Plus, when someone has diabetes, they are always at a much greater risk of having some form of heart disease, which is also connected to having high cholesterol. The buildup of plaque in the arteries, coupled with a high risk factor associated with diabetes, can often lead to serious outcomes.
It seems like the words “cholesterol” and “fat” are almost always linked together, and when patients discover that their cholesterol is high, the first thing they usually try to do is remove most of the fats from their diet. However, we must keep in mind that our bodies actually need certain types of fats, and some of them are actually even good for us! While artificial fats from processed and packaged foods should always be avoided whenever possible, keep in mind that raw, natural fats are something that our bodies crave. Some healthy fats include avocados, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, wild fish and wild meats.
When we are attempting to provide an excuse for our conditions, typically any one with some validity will do. However, the misconception that most Americans have high cholesterol is based soundly in mythology. According to some recent studies, it seems that American men rank 83rd in the world for having high cholesterol, and American women squeak in at 81st. The average levels are around 197, which are below the category for Borderline High Risk. In Colombia, the typical level of cholesterol with men is at a high 244, so Americans don’t seem to be doing so bad in this department, after all.
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