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What Is Cholesterol and What Is So Good or Bad About It?

April 23, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 156

Cholesterol is a wax-like substance found in the lipids -- or fats -- of your blood. It is not a fat itself. Your body needs a certain amount of this compound -- we talk about this a bit later -- but too much of this substance is shown statistically to correlate with increased incidence of heart disease, and this is usually accompanied by inflammation.

Believe it or not, your body actually manufactures cholesterol and is in every cell of your body. Your liver produces about 1,000 milligrams of it a day, in fact.

Cholesterol serves important functions in the body.

Without it, life would not be possible. In fact it is used in every cell of your body: it is part of the cell wall integrity, it is the precursor to steroid hormones, and it is part of the digestive system. Great portions of your brain are made of cholesterol; it is especially important for neuron development in your brain. Too low cholesterol runs the risk of low intelligence or mental health problems.

The structure of the cholesterol molecule is exactly like the structure of a steroid molecule, it is a complex ringed structure and completely unlike any fat or protein molecules. The body easily converts it into the necessary steroid hormones, such as testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone.

The presence of cholesterol in your body:

• Directs the development of certain cells in a growing fetus.

• Is a portion of the membranes that protect each and every cell in your body.

• Is found in plentiful supply in your brain, which is composed mostly of fatty tissue. (Who knew?)

• Helps to create hormones, including testosterone and the adrenal hormone, cortisol.

• Is found in digestive juices, like bile.

• Is needed for the creation of vitamin D, manufactured when sun activates the fatty tissues just under your skin.

• Helps to build synapse, the vital structures through which your nerve cells send messages.

Did you have any idea it was this important? And now you know why too little of it is also unhealthy.

By itself, cholesterol can't transport through your bloodstream as it won't mix, much like oil and water. It must be transported by piggy-backing onto other molecules, in this case, a combination of fat and protein, called a lipoprotein.

What is good and bad cholesterol?

There are several sizes and densities of lipoproteins, the main ones of focus here are high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). These two are more commonly called "good" or "bad" cholesterol. A good way to remember them are LDL, what we typically label as bad, starts with "L" for lousy. Similarly, the HDL is the good cholesterol starts with "H", for healthy.

Neither of them are bad or good: they each serve different functions. The reason why LDL is called "bad" is that if we have too much of it, it means we could be at risk for heart disease and stroke. If we are suffering from inflammation, the liver pumps up the production of LDL cholesterol to go cover the inflammation like a bandaid. This is what could clog the arteries.

The "good" cholesterol follows and sweeps out the deposited LDL cholesterol once inflammation cools. This is why we should have an optimal ratio of good to bad cholesterol. You see, this is one situation where heart disease and clogged arteries can be REVERSED!

Statistically, chances of developing heart disease rise as cholesterol levels rise, particularly if your inflammation is high. The inflammation can be measured by the C-reactive protein test also called CRP.

According to the U.S. government, more than half of all adults in this country possess total cholesterol levels that are greater than 200 mg/dL. Of these people, another half of them don't even realize they have high cholesterol.

What cholesterol levels are healthy?

Cholesterol, as well as other compounds, is measured using a system called milligrams per deciliter (a deciliter is about a tenth of a liter, it turns out it is somewhere between 1/3 and ½ cup). You'll find this more often noted in the abbreviation of mg/dL.

Current cholesterol guidelines: below 180 mg/dL is ideal, less than 200 mg/dL is desirable, while above 240 mg/dL is considered high. As one ages, a slightly higher number predicts better longevity (statistically). The HDL level should be at least 40 mg/dL and ideally above 60 mg/dL while LDL should be 100 mg/dL and below ideally.

It is best to get tested in a fasted state, since ingestion of food can cause in increased cholesterol count. Total to HDL ratio should be 4.5 to 1 or less for a man and 4 to 1 or less if you're a woman.

There is a variation amongst individuals, especially as one ages, as to whether over 200 mg/dL is dangerous or not. In the absence of other health problems such as blood sugar dysfunction, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and high CRP, it is unlikely that this cholesterol level is a problem, especially as passes 60 years of age. Tests for arterial deposits can help determine if this is a problem.

Going rabidly after a certain number without taking into consideration individual variation doesn't have the best interests of that person or his/her health in mind. With the high percentage of dangerous and difficult side effects of statins, the most popular medication on the planet, it is certainly more prudent to consider a lifestyle/diet change before considering prescriptions. Especially since some effects are not reversible.

Conclusion - Cholesterol is neither good or bad, it is necessary to sustain life, health, and neural activity, especially memory and brain function. Excess LDL is likely a signal that we are experiencing inflammation or stress and should be remedied to improve health. Less than 200 mg/dL total cholesterol is the current "desirable" level, but this is a simple guideline: there is variation amongst individuals as to what is actually healthy.

Prof. Anastasia Chopelas, a research scientist, writes health books and articles to promote health and wellness naturally after conquering several health challenges herself. Her books on "Get Rid of Bad Cholesterol" at will help you lower cholesterol naturally. You can find further tips and articles at her blog, Lower Cholesterol Naturally: and get free lessons and tips by signing up on the websites.

Source: EzineArticles
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