Cholesterol 101

To understand high blood cholesterol, it is important to know more about cholesterol itself.

1. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in all cells of the body. Your body needs some cholesterol to work the right way and makes all the cholesterol you need.

2. Cholesterol is also found in some of the foods you eat.

3. You use cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods.

Blood is watery and cholesterol is fatty. Just like oil and water, the two do not mix. In order to travel in the bloodstream, cholesterol is carried in small packages called lipoproteins. The small packages are made of fat (lipid) on the inside and proteins on the outside. Two kinds of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout your body. It is important to have healthy levels of both:

LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol is sometimes called “bad” cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol leads to a buildup of cholesterol in arteries. The higher the LDL level in your blood, the greater chance you have for getting heart disease.

HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol is sometimes called “good” cholesterol. HDL carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. The liver removes the cholesterol from your body. The higher your HDL cholesterol level, the lower your chance of getting heart disease.

To Improve Your Cholesterol, Improve Your Diet
If you’re looking to lower your cholesterol, the first place you should start is with your diet. Here are some simple ideas:

Meat, Poultry and Fish – Replace high-fat meats such as corned beef and prime rib with lean meat, skinless poultry, fish, or beans.

Cured Meats – Replace pork bacon with turkey bacon, Canadian bacon, or lean ham. Replace pork sausage with chicken or turkey sausage, lean ground beef, or ground turkey.

Dairy Products – Replace whole milk and whole-fat cheeses with skim milk, low-fat or part-skim cheeses, or low-fat plain soymilk.

Replace full-fat yogurt, sour cream, and cottage cheese with their plain, nonfat versions.

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