What is Cholesterol and is it Harmful?

Posted by administrator Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cholesterol is a lipid (fatty substance) which can be found in the circulatory system. It comes from two sources. The first is diet, and is primarily from animal derived sources such as meat and dairy. It can also come from liver production. The liver has the capacity to remove cholesterol from the blood stream but it also secretes it into the blood circulation in between meals, as a small amount of cholesterol is needed for the production of hormones, vitamin D and bile for digestion. However, serious health issues can arise from an excess of cholesterol.

To travel through the blood stream the cholesterol needs to bond with a protein, forming a lipoprotein. There are two different lipoproteins - High Density Lipoprotein (good cholesterol) and Low Density Lipoprotein (bad cholesterol). A high level of HDL cholesterol is desirable as it extracts cholesterol from the artery walls, which can then be eliminated by the liver. On the other hand, LDL lipoprotein causes a hard, fatty build up of cholesterol on the walls of the arteries which will eventually restrict blood flow. This causes the arteries to narrow and can lead to serious cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks.

Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol can either be caused by hereditary problems or by diet. One problem which may be inherited is low levels of LDL receptors in the liver, which diminishes the amount of 'bad' cholesterol being removed from the blood stream. Associated health problems may manifest themselves as soon as early adulthood, and this is a leading cause of heart attacks among young men and women.
Poor diet, however, has become a leading cause of high cholesterol. This increasing problem is, in part, owed to the popularity of convenience and processed food. These foods are high in bad cholesterol due to the hydrogenated and saturated fat they contain. People should aim to eat a diet high in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and fish. Use olive oil rather than vegetable oil to cook and trans-fat margarine rather than butter. The more liquid the margarine the less likely it is to contribute to the hardening of the arteries.

Another factor contributing to the build up of cholesterol in the arteries is exercise. Physical activity is very important as it elevates your level of HDL and helps break down any bad cholesterol which may have accumulated on the artery walls. Age is also an issue, as cholesterol levels tend to rise as you get older.
The American Heart Foundation recommends that people restrict their cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams a day. People with a history of heart disease should aim for an intake of less than 200 milligrams.
Leanne is a keen writer, with a particular interest in health issues. Her most recent articles include Alternative Treatments for Panic Attacks, published at helpfultipsforpanicattacks.co.uk.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Leanne_Williamsfoto by netwellness

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