What Is Cholesterol?
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH), cholesterol is a soft, waxy, fat-like substance that occurs naturally in the blood stream and body cells. Although it is insoluble in blood, this substance is vital for the proper functioning of the body. More specifically, the body requires cholesterol to produce Vitamin D, cell membranes, and hormones.For the water-insoluble cholesterol to move through the blood stream smoothly, it has to combine with soluble proteins. When the two substances combine, they form lipoproteins, with the proteins encapsulating the fats. Health experts usually classify lipoproteins based on their density. To do this, they use processes such as electrophoresis and ultracentrifugation. There are five types of lipoproteins, but when it comes to cholesterol, the main ones are the high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL).
Is All Cholesterol Bad?
High-density lipoproteins have a high protein/lipid ratio and health experts usually call it “good” cholesterol because it helps to eliminate excess cholesterol (LDL) from the bloodstream. On the other hand, LDL contains high levels of cholesterol esters and therefore health experts usually call it “bad” cholesterol. Unlike HDL, which cleans the bloodstream, LDL tends to form deposits on artery walls, thereby hindering proper flow of blood. For this reason, it could potentially cause fatal health complications such as stroke and heart disease. Unfortunately, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over 70 million American adults, or 31.7% of the population, have high low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol. Out of these, only about 30% have the condition under control, says the CDC. A high LDL is anything above 160mg/dL, according to the National Cholesterol Education program.
Additionally, the CDC says that cholesterol levels tend to vary by race and gender. For instance, close to 40% of Mexican Americans men suffer from high LDL, which is the largest percentage of all the races in America. The percentage of Non-Hispanic Blacks and Non-Hispanic Whites male demographics who suffer from this health problem is 30.7% and 29.4% respectively, the CDC reports. Women are more prone to high LDL compared to men, with 32% of women in the US diagnosed with high LDL compared to 31% of men. In fact, a recent report by the National Center for Health Statistics says that nearly one in every two women in America has high or borderline high LDL. Moreover, out of the three aforementioned ethnic demographics, the only demographic where the percentage of men is greater than that of women is the Mexican Americans demographic—38.8% vs 31.8%.
What Foods Are High In Cholesterol?
According to the CDC, high-cholesterol foods include foods from animal sources including fatty meat, organ meat such as liver and kidney, dairy products and eggs. Other foods that contribute to high LDL include foods rich in saturated fats such as cheese, dairy dessert and tropical oils, foods rich in trans fats such as baked foods, fried foods and margarine.
What Are Cholesterol Risk Factors?
The main cholesterol risk factors include age, obesity, family medical history, lifestyle and diet. Fortunately, you can lower high LDL risk by eating healthy, engaging in physical activities regularly, not smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol in moderation.
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