Understanding Your Cholesterol

Understanding Your Cholesterol
I was once told that cholesterol is like having a handful of change. Money, change in particular, makes up pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. However, the change is called “money.” Cholesterol can be broken down like change in our hand. There is LDL, HDL, and triglycerides, but they are all three still a part of “cholesterol” that needs to be looked at when you get your blood work done. Just as pennies, nickels, and dimes, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides have their values, objectives, and abilities.

Cholesterol is a lipid, (another name for lipid is fat) that is produced by the liver and is important for normal body functioning. Cholesterol is a waxy steroid that exists in the outer layer of every cell in the human body.

Cholesterol’s role is very important for our body to maintain good health. This waxy-like steroid is transported in the blood plasma and has many functions. Some functions of cholesterol are as follows:

* It builds and maintains the outer layer of our cell membranes. Cholesterol prevents hydrocarbons in the membranes.

* Cholesterol helps our body convert sunshine into Vitamin D, and is important for the metabolism of fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A,D,E, and K.

* It aids in the production of bile. It insulates our nerve fibers.

* Cholesterol is involved in the production of sex hormones like androgens and estrogens.

* It is mandatory for the production of hormones released by the adrenal glands such as aldosterone, cortisol, corticosterone, and others.

* Cholesterol is essential for determining cell membrane permeability. It determines which molecules can pass into the cell and which cannot.

* It insulates our nerve fibers.

Cholesterol is carried through the blood stream by molecules called lipoproteins. A lipoprotein is a complex compound containing both fat and protein. The three main types are the LDL, HDL, and triglycerides.

People most often refer to LDL (low density lipoprotein)as the bad cholesterol. LDL lipoprotein carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells. If too much is carried there can be harmful buildup. An increase in the LDL lipoprotein can increase the risk of arterial disease.

People often think of HDL ( high density lipoprotein) as the good cholesterol. It is believed that HDL prevents arterial disease and performs the opposite way of LDL. HDL removes the cholesterol away from the cells and takes it back to the liver.

Triglycerides are the chemical forms in which most of our fat exists in the body, as well as in food. Triglycerides are present in our blood plasma and form plasma lipids, or the blood fat. We get most of our triglycerides either from fats in our food or it can be made in the body from carbohydrates. The calories we do not use up, but store in our tissues are turned into triglycerides and stored in our fat cells.

As you can see, cholesterol isn’t all bad.Your body requires it in moderation. However high levels of cholesterol are one of the many risk factors for serious future health problems such as heart disease, arteriosclerosis, and stroke.

If you wonder if you have high cholesterol, you should see your doctor and ask that you get a cholesterol test which includes the LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. If that is the only test you are requesting, the cost should not be over $45.00. Most insurance companies will pay for the test if you are fortunate to have insurance and do not need to meet a high deductible.

If you already know you have high cholesterol, most mainstream doctors will put you on prescription medications. Be careful with all medications. Go to the internet and look up the medications you are on for any and all side effects.

If you are considering doing some natural things to help, here are a few things that I learned about in med school. Remember, I am only educating you and I ask that you always seek your doctors advice first.

One major way to help control cholesterol levels is to watch what goes into your mouth. A diet thats high in fiber may help. This means increasing the amount of vegetables, fruits and nuts. If you are a “meat and potatoes” kind of person, it may be good to not consume as much as you normally do. (Im trying to gently let you down here.)

A wonderful herb supplement that I learned about in medical school is called Guggul, not Google like on the computer but pronounced the same way. This Ayurvedic herb is grown in India and certainly worked for me. Medical School keeps one from eating correctly, or at least that was my excuse. A twelve week study proved that 1,500 mg of Guggul reduced total cholesterol by an average of 22 percent and triglycerides by 25 percent.

Other known helpers in reducing cholesterol is Red Yeast Rice, Policosanol, garlic, and fish oils.

Exercise lowers LDL levels and raises the HDL levels. Try to find something you enjoy doing so it is not a chore to exercise.

Know your cholesterol numbers like you know your pennies, nickels, and dimes. Knowing your numbers can actually save your pennies, nickels, and dimes to make more money for you because you are not spending it at the doctors office or at the pharmacy. Most of all, it could save your life. This is part of preventive medicine.