Cholesterol is necessary for normal metabolic functioning, but excess cholesterol in blood vessels leads to heart attacks, coronary disease, and strokes. To fully understand cholesterol’s role in your health, you need to understand cholesterol itself.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body needs to build cells and manufacture vitamins and hormones. Your body produces all of the cholesterol it needs in the liver.
Certain foods, most animal products, contain dietary cholesterol and trigger the liver to produce more cholesterol. Other foods that can raise your cholesterol levels are oils containing saturated fat, such as palm and coconut oils.
Types of Cholesterol
The circulatory system carries cholesterol through the body through two different lipoproteins: high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL).
HDL earned the label of “good cholesterol” because it removes the LDL cholesterol from the arteries and carries it to the liver, where it can be broken down by the liver and removed from the body.
LDL, the “bad cholesterol,” earned its title because when too much LDL cholesterol is in the arteries, it can build up and form plaque on the artery walls. The buildup of plaque in the arteries narrows the arteries and increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Managing Your Cholesterol
The best way to lower your cholesterol is through exercise and reducing saturated fats and trans fats in your diet. You can accomplish this by limiting your consumption of red meat, fried foods, and full-fat dairy. Replacing animal products and fattening foods with plant-based foods will positively affect your cholesterol. If your cholesterol levels continue to stay elevated, you may need prescription cholesterol-lowering medication. However, even if you are on medication for your high cholesterol, you should still implement a healthier diet and exercise to ensure you fight off the risks of heart disease.