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Cholesterol Education Month: Learn About Cholesterol
More than 90 million adults in the United States have high cholesterol.1 Although cholesterol is essential for numerous functions in the body, high levels of cholesterol can be harmful to your health.
It’s important to try and maintain healthy cholesterol levels to prevent health issues such as heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks.
September is National Cholesterol Education Month. Here are some facts about cholesterol, how it impacts the body, and how you can manage your cholesterol levels.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol a lipoprotein that is made of fat and protein. Your body gets cholesterol from two sources: your liver and the food you consume. Your liver makes about 80% of the cholesterol in your body, and the other 20% comes from the food you eat.2
Blood cholesterol is made by the liver and constantly circulates throughout your blood to help your body function. This type of cholesterol aids your body in making hormones and digesting certain foods.3 Cholesterol also helps the body build cells and make vitamins.4
There is also the cholesterol that you consume by the food you eat. Eating certain foods with a high percentage of cholesterol and fat can raise your cholesterol levels.
High cholesterol can put you at a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart attack because it lessens the blood flow throughout the body.4
There are two types of cholesterol in your body that have different roles and functions.
High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Cholesterol
High-density lipoprotein cholesterol, commonly known as HDL cholesterol, is what doctors consider the “good” cholesterol.
HDL cholesterol is what helps your body remove the bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) out of your blood.5 HDL cholesterol can also remove any plaque buildups that may form in your blood vessels, which helps prevent the arteries from narrowing.6
If you get a blood test done and it shows a normal and healthy level of HDL cholesterol, you most likely have a lower risk of heart disease.
Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, is known as the “bad” type of cholesterol. It also makes up the largest portion of cholesterol in your body.
LDL cholesterol collects in your arteries and builds plaques.7 When this happens, the arteries become narrow, which slows down the blood flow to your heart. Having a high level of LDL cholesterol will increase your risk of heart disease and other health issues such as stroke and heart attack.8
There are many factors that can contribute to the amount of LDL cholesterol in your body. Some of these factors include:
- A diet with high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol
- Being overweight
- A lack of physical activity
How Cholesterol Affects the Body
The levels of HDL and LDL cholesterol in your body can affect how your organs work and lead to health issues. Likewise, other health conditions that are present in your body may have an effect on your cholesterol levels.
- Hormones – Cholesterol aids the body in making hormones, and hormones can directly affect the level of cholesterol in your body. For example, a woman’s cholesterol levels will be different during their menstrual cycle because their estrogen levels affect cholesterol.9
- Thyroid function – If someone has hypothyroidism, which results in a low production of the thyroid hormone, it can lead to an increase in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. On the other hand, someone with hyperthyroidism, excess thyroid production, will experience the opposite.
- Brain function – The brain needs cholesterol to operate thought processes and communication throughout different parts of the body. However, excess cholesterol blocks the arteries. When the arteries become blocked, strokes can occur due to lack of blood flow to the brain.10
- Digestive system – Your digestive system uses cholesterol to form bile, which helps to break down food and absorb nutrients. If there is too much cholesterol, the extra cholesterol left over turns into gallstones, hardened pieces of bile.11
Ultimately, cholesterol is used in many body processes, but an excess amount of cholesterol can be harmful to your body.
How to Manage Cholesterol
It is essential to manage your cholesterol levels to live a healthy lifestyle. If your doctor suspects high LDL cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol, they may suggest that you make lifestyle changes or take a medication.
When possible, you want to naturally increase the levels of HDL cholesterol in your body while decreasing your LDL cholesterol.
Increase HDL Cholesterol
Here are some foods that can help increase your HDL cholesterol:
- Whole grains
Decrease LDL Cholesterol
Decreasing the levels of LDL cholesterol in your body has a lot to do with your lifestyle choices, including diet and physical activity. Here are some ways to decrease your levels of LDL cholesterol:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Limit food sources that contain saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol
Learn About Cholesterol Today
Now that you know what cholesterol is and how it can affect your body, continue to educate yourself on how you can manage your cholesterol levels. It is critical to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level to ensure a healthy life.
Check with your doctor about your risk of high cholesterol and how often you should get your blood work checked. If you suspect that you might be at risk for high cholesterol, talk to them about ways you can manage your cholesterol levels.
Here at Saber Healthcare, our medical staff works alongside our dietary department to ensure that our residents eat a nutritious meal to meet their specific needs. If you want to learn more about Saber Healthcare and our services, click here.
Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- “High Cholesterol Facts.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. September 8th, 2020. Accessed August 30th, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/facts.htm.
- Corliss, Julie. “How it’s made: Cholesterol production in your body.” The Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College, Harvard Health Publishing. July 31st, 2019. Accessed August 30th, 2021. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/how-its-made-cholesterol-production-in-your-body.
- “About Cholesterol.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 24th, 2021. Accessed August 30th, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/about.htm.
- “Cholesterol 101: An introduction.” American Heart Association, heart.org. November 6th, 2020. Accessed August 30th, 2021. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/about-cholesterol.
- “HDL cholesterol: How to boost your ‘good’ cholesterol.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mayo Clinic. November 10th, 2020. Accessed August 30th, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/hdl-cholesterol/art-20046388.
- Holland, Kimberly. “11 Foods to Increase Your HDL.” Healthline Media, healthline.com. March 27th, 2019. Accessed August 30th, 2021. https://www.healthline.com/health/high-cholesterol/foods-to-increase-hdl.
- “LDL: The ‘Bad’ Cholesterol.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus. October 2nd, 2020. Accessed August 30th, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ldlthebadcholesterol.html.
- Beckerman, James. “Understanding Cholesterol Numbers.” WebMD, webmd.com. June 18th, 2020. Accessed August 30th, 2021. https://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/guide/understanding-numbers.
- Michos, Erin. “Why Cholesterol Matters for Women.” The Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins Medicine. Accessed August 31st, 2021. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/why-cholesterol-matters-for-women.
- “How does ‘bad’ cholesterol affect brain function?” Aster DM Healthcare, Aster Medcity. Accessed August 31st, 2021. https://astermedcity.com/blog/readmore/how-does-bad-cholesterol-affect-brain-function.
- Watson, Stephanie. “The Effects of High Cholesterol on the Body.” Healthline Media, healthline.com. April 3rd, 2020. Accessed August 30th, 2021. https://www.healthline.com/health/cholesterol/effects-on-body.