Cholesterol: The Good, The Bad and The Fatty
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is found throughout the body. It travels through your blood and helps make cell membranes, hormones, and even vitamin D. About 75 percent of your blood cholesterol is produced by your own body.
So how can something that helps your body function be unhealthy?
LDL vs. HDL
Here’s where it gets a little more complicated. There are different types of cholesterol, and the mixture in your bloodstream will have some low-density liproteins, or LDL, and some high-density lipoproteins, or HDL.
- Too much LDL? Puts you at risk for heart disease, heart attack or stroke.
- Too little HDL? Same risks.
- High LDL levels can lead to your cholesterol lodging in your artery walls and forming plaques.
- HDL carries LDL away from the arteries. That’s why you want more.
What Can You Do?
Reduce the saturated fat from your meals. These unhealthy fats mostly come from animal sources like beef, cheese and cream. Many baked goods also contain saturated fat. Increase vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
- Get regular physical activity.
- Lose weight or prevent weight gain.
- If you smoke, quit.
For some patients, diet and exercise may not be enough. Your doctor may subscribe a medication called a statin.
How Statins Work
Statins block an enzyme that is part of the liver’s production of cholesterol. With that production now limited, there is less cholesterol in the bloodstream. This lowers the risk of plaques forming and blocking the blood flow to the heart.
Your primary care physician can help you keep track of your cholesterol numbers with a simple blood test. Your doctor can also determine whether or not you need a statin in addition to exercise and a more balanced diet.