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HomeHeartCholesterolWhy Cholesterol Matters: Its Important Role in Maintaining Our Health

Why Cholesterol Matters: Its Important Role in Maintaining Our Health

Cholesterol is a type of lipid which is a by-product that is manufactured by the liver. It is a soft, waxy, fat-like substance found in the blood and in all cells of the body. Cholesterol is important for good health, but in the right amounts, and is needed for making cell walls, tissues, hormones, vitamin D (for healthy bones, teeth, and muscles), and bile acid (helps to digest fats we eat).

Sources of Cholesterol

Cholesterol is not actually “bad” but too much cholesterol creates problems. Cholesterol comes from two sources. First is the liver which makes all the cholesterol (80%) we need. The remainder of the cholesterol (20%) comes from animal foods like meat, poultry, and dairy products. These are called dietary cholesterol. These animal foods are rich in saturated and trans fat which causes our liver to make more cholesterol than usual. This added production raises the cholesterol level.

Also Read: What is Detoxification? Here Are the Basic Steps and Common Foods to Detox

Negative Health Effects of Cholesterol

As the amount of cholesterol increases in the blood, the risk to health increases accordingly. High cholesterol contributes to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.  For people who have genetic predispositions or who are not very active and don’t pay attention to their diet as well as physical activity, this cholesterol becomes so abundant that it may become hazardous to health. Keeping cholesterol/lipids in control is one of the most important things to do to protect against heart disease. 

Foods high in cholesterol are those that are high in saturated or trans fats. There are two most common types of cholesterol: good (high-density lipoprotein-HDL) and bad (low-density lipoprotein-LDL). There is also another type of fat (lipid) called triglycerides which are not cholesterol but are an important measure of heart disease. After food intake, the body converts unused calories into triglycerides that are stored in fat cells. These are then released for energy between meals by hormones.

Triglycerides increase when we take more calories than we burn which may contribute to the thickening of arteries, resulting in increasing the risks of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease. The fat in LDL cholesterol travels through the blood vessels and helps form plaque which sticks. As the plaque builds up, it forms a blockage along the blood vessel, making it hard for the blood to pass through. The blood vessel can eventually become totally blocked.  On the other hand HDL, cholesterol sweeps away LDL, cholesterol, and plaque buildup from the arteries to the liver so it can be flushed out of the body. So HDL helps prevent disease.

Cholesterol can join with other substances to form a thick, hard deposit on the inside of arteries. This can narrow arteries and make them less flexible- a condition known as atherosclerosis. If a blood clot forms and blocks one of these narrowed arteries, a heart attack or stroke can result. 80% of all deaths of heart diseases are due to heart attacks and strokes in which lipids play an important role besides other risk factors. Since the turn of the century, it is a growing threat. 

Cholesterol problems are very common due to genetic risk, lack of physical activity, heavy smoking, alcoholism, unhealthy dietary habits, and underlying condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes. The likelihood of dying from heart disease in young people doubles with every 40-point increase in total cholesterol. 

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