What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol doesn’t dissolve in the blood because it is not water soluble and therefore cannot move in the blood stream on its own. Cholesterol is transported between cells by proteins and together they are known as lipoproteins since lipoproteins are made up of fat on the inside and protein on the outside.
Why do we need cholesterol?
Cholesterol is essential for the proper functioning of the body specifically the formation of cell membranes, producing certain hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone and to make vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin).
What are the different types of cholesterol?
Cholesterol is classified by the type of lipoproteins that carry it:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL):
LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells in the body that need it. The problem with LDL is that excess cholesterol that is not required by the cells remains unused and build up in the artery walls. Over time this leads to the clogging of blood vessels causing them to narrow and increasing the risk of atherosclerosis, a form of heart disease. This in turn can lead to heart attacks, strokes and peripheral artery disease. This is the reason LDL is also called as bad cholesterol.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL):
HDL does the opposite of LDL i.e. it carries cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver where it is broken down and passed out of the body thereby reducing the risk of heart diseases. It is for this reason that HDL is also know as good cholesterol.
A lipoprotein that you should not ignore
Very low density lipoprotein (VLDL):
VLDL carries triglycerides a type of blood fat which is produced in the liver and is carried to body tissues. Just like LDL, VLDL is responsible for the build p of plaque deposits on the artery walls causing the blood vessels to narrow thus restricting the flow of blood. Triglycerides are as dangerous as bad cholesterol and thats why it is important to have a full lipid profile test done rather than a basic cholesterol test as it does not measure triglyceride levels.
What Are the Symptoms of High Cholesterol?
Unfortunately high cholesterol has no obvious symptoms and that is why it is called a silent killer. The first obvious sign could be a heart attack or a stroke! A blood test is the only way to detect high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends that all adults aged 20 or older should have their cholesterol levels checked and there after every 4 to 6 years.
What Causes High Cholesterol?Unhealty lifestyle – eating high levels of saturated fat and not getting enough physical exercise. Smoking Alcohol Overweight Having a large waist circumference Underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroid) Having diabetes or high blood pressure Family history of heart diseases or high cholesterol