When Is Cholesterol Good And When Is It Bad for Your Heart?

26 May 2015
 Categories: , Blog

Moderation is key and, like in a lot of situations concerning the human body, cholesterol is good for you as long as its in balance. Cholesterol is not all good and it's not all bad. You need both kinds, and you need the right proportions to stay healthy and avoid heart disease. Here is the inside information about cholesterol so you'll understand what it means for you.

Why Your Body Needs It and Where It Comes From

Your cells need cholesterol to fuel their activities. They use it to produce hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids that are used to digest fat.

You take in cholesterol whenever you eat meat and dairy products. Your liver extracts the cholesterol from food and combines it with a protein, creating a lipoprotein. Then it sends it out to your cells through your blood. If you don't get enough cholesterol from your diet, the liver can manufacture another lipoprotein which it then sends out to the cells.

The Good and the Bad of Cholesterol

The ratio of cholesterol to protein in these lipoproteins determines the "good" and "bad" cholesterol versions that your heart doctor is concerned about. Low density lipoprotein, or LDL, has more cholesterol than protein and is considered the "bad" form. High density lipoprotein, or HDL, has more protein than cholesterol and is the "good" form.

Too much LDL in your system and you risk getting plaque on the blood vessel walls which can lead to stroke or a heart attack. The HDL balances out the bad effects of the LDL, so when they are in balance, your body is healthy. Too little HDL and the bad cholesterol takes over.

Why an Imbalance Happens

Some lifestyle choices create an imbalance of HDL and LDL. Sine these are choices, you can manage the impact of these on your body:

  • a diet high in saturated fat
  • being overweight
  • low activity levels and little exercise
  • untreated diabetes
  • smoking (this decreases the good cholesterol)

There are a few factors involved over which you have no control:

  • Age - The senior body has lower HDL levels.
  • Gender - Men often have higher cholesterol than women.
  • Genetics - High cholesterol can run in the family.

Preventing Heart Disease and Stroke from High Cholesterol

A regular cholesterol screening tracks your good and bad cholesterol levels. If your doctor says there is a slight imbalance, an adjustment to your diet and exercise may be all it takes to get it back under control. A high cholesterol level may require medication to bring it down to a normal level.

Some lifestyle changes will prevent the cholesterol imbalance and keep your heart healthy, including the following:

  • eat less red meat and more lean protein sources such as chicken and fish
  • increase your exercise and activity levels, which improves circulation
  • reduce excess weight to reduce stress on the heart
  • stop smoking to maintain healthier levels of good cholesterol

Should you begin to show signs of heart disease because of high cholesterol, a cardiologist may make additional treatment recommendations for you before you have a stroke or heart attack. Contact a medical professional at Cayuga Medical Center or a similar establishment for an appointment.