Cholesterol – What Is It?
We’re going to start with the simplest question of all: What, exactly, is cholesterol?
If you saw it it would look like a fatty, waxy stuff. Not only is it in some of the food you eat, but your body produces it every day. In fact your own liver produces it.
It’s necessary for good health and it’s a part of every cell in your body.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take steps to be sensible about it – especially if you’re carrying excess weight and need to lose some (see medifastdiet.com for weight loss plans).
There are several things that cholesterol helps our bodies to do:
Keep the cell wall healthy
Help the body produce enough vitamin D
Aid in digestion, by producing stomach acids to digest fat
Not always as bad as you might have heard.
So far from being the universal evil that it’s always portrayed as, cholesterol does have some good in it. We need cholesterol and we produce it ourselves. You also get some from certain foods, basically from animals, like meat or dairy. Fruit and veg contain no cholesterol at all.
When is it bad?
When the body produces too much cholesterol it sits in the blood stream and eventually it can block up your blood vessels.
That increases your risk of heart diseases and the ‘silent killer’, stroke.
If you eat a lot of animal fats – also called saturated fats -your body can produce too much cholesterol. And a high cholesterol level should not be ignored. Now there are various types of cholesterol and they each have a different role to play in your health.
The ‘bad’ cholesterol is called LDL, which stands for Low Density Lipoprotein. This is the one that can increase your chances of getting heart disease by clogging up your arteries. When that happens blood flow through the artery is diminished.
The ‘good’ cholesterol is called HDL. This is the opposite, so it’s High Density Lipoprotein. This actually ‘sweeps up’ the ‘bad’ cholesterol from your blood stream. Which means it’s important to know your cholesterol ratio to know whether you have a normal cholesterol level.
If you cholesterol monitor regularly you will know when you have high cholesterol. And if you do have high cholesterol it makes sense to reduce your LDL cholesterol if you can. And if your levels are high you should do it as soon as possible, for your own sake.
Considering that it’s been estimated that about 50% of Americans have high cholesterol levels, it’s wise for everyone to get their level tested and do something about it.
Lowering cholesterol naturally is an attractive option for many. Remaining on medication for any length of time is something a lot of people want to avoid. So start by making wise choices in the foods you eat. There are foods naturally lower in the stuff. Fish is one. For example an average egg has about four times the cholesterol of a piece of fish, for example, so choosing the fish would help you have a lower level.
It’s been estimated that if you reduce your cholesterol by one percent you can decrease your chances of heart disease by twice that – 2%. That’s an amazing difference for small changes in your levels.
If you haven’t had your cholesterol tested in the last five years, then you should seriously think about having it done now. Even if your levels are high, you can reduce them by paying attention to your diet. If you don’t know what your normal cholesterol level is, you should speak to your doctor to find out, or you could invest in one of the modern and easy to use home cholesterol testing kits out there.
Cholesterol is a complex topic, which may be difficult to understand. Although cholesterol was known to exist in 1770, research on its structure was not conducted until the early 1900’s. It was not until the 1930’s the correct structure of the cholesterol molecule was ascertained. The final stage of research about synthesizing of the cholesterol compound was not completed until 1951 by American chemist, Robert B. Woodward.
Cholesterol is a fatty lipid, which are a broad class of organic products found in living systems, and is located in cell membranes and transported by blood plasma. Cell membranes, also known as plasma membranes, are barriers inside or surrounding a cell. Blood plasma is a yellow liquid component comprised of 90 percent water in which blood cells are suspended. It is about 60 percent of your total blood volume. It is mostly incapable of disintegration in water, but can be dispersed in some organic substances.
Facts about cholesterol
It is a steroid, which is a fat-soluble organic compound. Cholesterol is found in your brain, spinal cord and liver in large accumulations. The liver is the most important site where cholesterol is biosynthesized, a phenomenon which takes place when chemical compounds are produced from simpler substances or compounds. Biosynthesis can also take place in your adrenal glands and reproductive organs. Biosynthesis takes place in living organisms and is essential for metabolism.
It is produced from acetic acid by a process of enzymatic reactions. Synthesize means a process where the union of two or more elements results in the formation of a new component. Acetic acid occurs naturally in body fluids. It is a molecule which is an originator to other biologically important molecules. A molecule is the smallest physical unit of an element or compound.
Enzymes are biomolecules that increase the rate of chemical reactions. Most enzymes are proteins. In an enzymatic reaction, an enzyme changes molecules from one form into another.
It is a primary precursor for the synthesis of Vitamin D3, steroid hormones in the adrenal glands and sex hormones. Adrenal glands are located above the kidneys and their function is to regulate your stress response through production of these steroid hormones.
It is categorized as a sterol. It is the primary sterol synthesized by animals. Sterols, also known as steroid alcohols, are a subgroup of steroids.
It is excreted almost entirely from the liver in a secretion called bile. Bile is a bitter alkaline yellow, brown or green fluid composed of many elements, including cholesterol, that helps food digestion by neutralizing stomach acid. If bile does not flow properly, you will suffer from digestive disturbances and, possibly, jaundice.
However, cholesterol can also crystallize in the gall bladder in the form of gallstones. The size of gallstones can be anywhere from a grain of sand to a golf ball. Gallstones from cholesterol are usually green, but also may be white or yellow.
Essential to Life
If you take away nothing else from this article, remember this: it is actually necessary for life. It’s an excess of it – and the ‘wrong’ type – that seems to be the problem. That means you don’t have to panic if your levels are higher than they should be. You just have to educate yourself and take some simple, but sensible steps to correct the situation.