It may surprise most of us to know that, cholesterol itself is not a bad substance. Actually, cholesterol is one of those compounds made and used by our own bodies (especially in liver) to keep us healthy. Greater portion, almost 60 to 70 percent of cholesterol, we need, is produced naturally while 30 to 40 percent comes from the diet.
There are two types of cholesterol commonly known as “good” and “bad” cholesterol. It’s vital to comprehend the distinction and levels of “good” and “bad” cholesterol in your blood. Excess of one type or shortage of another can put you at risk for coronary heart disease (CHD), heart attack or stroke.
Types of cholesterol
There are mainly three types of cholesterol and brief description of each type has given below:
Low-density lipoproteins or bad cholesterol
When surplus low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or bad cholesterol circulates in the blood, it starts to accumulate in the inner layer of the narrow arteries that feed the heart and brain. In combination with other substances like calcium, it forms plaque, thick, hard deposits that narrows the arteries and make them stiff. This condition is well known as atherosclerosis. Heart attack or stroke can result, if a clot blocks a narrowed artery.
High-density lipoproteins or good cholesterol
About one-fourth to one-third of blood cholesterol is carried by high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL cholesterol is “good” cholesterol, because high levels of HDL protect against cardiovascular diseases. Threshold or low levels of HDL also increase the chances of heart disease to crop up. Medical experts believe that HDL carries cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, however minimize the chances of atherosclerosis and plaque formation.
Triglyceride (TG) is actual form of fat made in the body. High TG level can be due to overweight or obesity, lack of physical activity, smoking, excess alcohol intake and a diet very high in carbohydrates. People with elevated TGs often have a high total cholesterol level, including a high LDL and a low HDL level. Many people with heart disease or diabetes also have high triglyceride levels.
Most blood cholesterol screenings give the total cholesterol level and these tests are also called lipid profile. Knowing this level is first step in determining risk for heart disease or stroke. Total cholesterol level below 200 mg/dL is normal. Blood cholesterol level above than 200mg/dL increases the risk for heart disease or stroke. Levels between 200 mg/dL to 239mg/dL are “borderline-high.” A high blood cholesterol level starts from 240 or more. High values indicate that the person has risk of developing heart disease, three folds as compared to normal one.
If you want to maintain your cholesterol on lower level, the starting point is your diet. You should not eat more than 300 mg per day of cholesterol. If you eat more saturated fats, such as milk, butter or animal fats, your cholesterol level will increase. You should eat no more than 10 percent of your total calories from saturated fats. If change in your eating habit does not reduce your cholesterol to optimum level, you may require medication.