Cholesterol – what is “bad”? what is “good”?
What is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a fatty substance that resembles wax. It is made by the liver and found in every cell in the body.
Do we need cholesterol? Cholesterol is important. Without cholesterol, our bodies would not be able to function. For example, cholesterol is needed by the body’s cells to maintain a healthy wall structure; it produces bile, which is crucial in the digestion process; it produces hormones, which guide and control organ function; and it produces Vitamin D, which is necessary for healthy bones and a strong immune system.
What is the total cholesterol count? The total cholesterol count is the sum of LDL, HDL, TriGlycerides and Lp(a) cholesterol in your blood:
- LDL & HDL – Since cholesterol is not dissolved in the blood, it is carried to the various cells by lipo-proteins. There are two kinds of lipo-proteins: low-density (LDL) and high-density (HDL). The LDL cholesterol is the “bad” cholesterol and the HDL cholesterol is the “good”cholesterol. If there is too much LDL in the blood, the lipids, along with other substances in the blood, can slowly build up along the inner surface of the arteries leading to the heart and brain.
- Triglycerides – Triglycerides are fats made by the body. High levels of Triglycerides are usually found in people who are overweight, have high blood pressure or diabetes, live a sedentary life, smoke, drink or eat a diet that is high in refined carbohydrates. According to the American Heart Association, “Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food as well as in the body.”
- Lp(a) cholesterol – Lp(a) is short for Lipo-protein (a), which is a low-density lipo-protein that is usually an inherited factor but may be found in people with kidney disease.
What are the target levels for HDL cholesterol?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the MINIMUM target for HDL cholesterol is 60mg/dl (milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood).
What increases HDL levels?
- increased physical activity
- weight loss
- healthy fats, whole grains, nuts
- Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish, fish oil supplements, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil)