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How Can Cholesterol Be Both Good and Bad?

There is a long-standing belief that cholesterol is the killer of good health. On contrary to this myth, our body really needs healthy levels of cholesterol to live in a tiptop condition.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found in our blood. It is naturally made by liver and found in every cells in our body. We also get cholesterol from the food we eat. Egg, meat, fish and dairy products all have cholesterol in them.

Cholesterol is not malignant and our body needs it to produce certain hormones, Vitamin D, bile acids ( aids in digestion and vitamin absorption) and is also vital for the creation and the maintenance of human cell membrane. It plays an integral part and is crucial for the proper functioning of the body.

Cholesterol is a waxy lipid and it cannot circulate freely in the blood because blood contains mostly water. So, it uses protein carriers called lipoproteins to travel through the bloodstream. The lipoproteins can be Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and High-density lipoproteins ( HDL).

Cholesterol is transported to bloodstream via LDL and HDL carriers. Cholesterol transported by LDL is called LDL cholesterol, and cholesterol transported by HDL is called HDL cholesterol.

LDL carries cholesterol from the liver and deliver it to cells. If there is excess cholesterol, LDL deposits it into the arteries. Eventually, it may create plaque and leads to the condition called atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. Plaque in the arteries narrows the passageway inside the artery and restrict the flow of blood to the heart muscle, kidney, stomach and brain.

LDL is popularly referred as bad cholesterol

High levels of LDL cholesterol increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and other health complications. LDL poses serious threat to our health. It is low in proteins, high in cholesterol and hence referred as bad cholesterol.

HDL is popularly referred as good cholesterol

High-density lipoproteins (HDL) takes the extra cholesterol from the blood and returns it to the liver to get processed and eliminated from the body. HDL is high in proteins and low in cholesterol. Hence, HDL is called as good cholesterol.

How Can Cholesterol Be Both Good and Bad?

Cholesterol is good and essential for our health for the proper functioning of hormones, nerves and cells. It cannot turn bad and affect your health if you maintain healthy levels of LDL and HDL.

High HDL helps to protect against heart disease. Low levels of HDL are associated with a greater risk of heart disease. Therefore,  maintaining the higher  HDL level is better. If your HDL falls in the “low” range, you are considered a major risk for heart disease.

High level of LDL cholesterol clog the arteries and poses great risk for health. So, keeping the LDL level as low as possible is a good way to protect your health.

Either too high or too low levels of cholesterol both poses threat. A healthy ratio is, a person must have more HDLs (good cholesterol) and low LDLs (bad cholesterol) for disease free life. If there is any imbalance, a person must change his lifestyle and diet to achieve healthy levels of cholesterol and optimum health.

Always remember to eat food low in saturated fat ( boost both LDL and HDL) and trans fat (harmful - increases the LDL and reduces the HDL). Unsaturated fat can be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. They reduces bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol. Hence, unsaturated fats are ideal for good health .

good and bad fat.jpg

  1. Trans fats - Ice cream, cakes, Biscuits and other bakery products, chocolates, Pizza , Burger etc.,
  2. Saturated fats - animal products(milk, meat,butter, beef, cheese, egg etc.,)
  3. Unsaturated fats can be monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. - Plant oils, nuts, Avocados
  4. Polyunsaturated fats - Walnuts, Sunflower seeds, Flax seeds 
  5. Monounsaturated fats - olive oil,canola oil,peanut oil,sesame oil. 

Maintain healthy weight by doing exercise, physical activity together following healthy diet increases good cholesterol (HDL), reduces the bad cholesterol (LDL) and also reduces the risk for heart disease and other health problems.

Be proactive, check your cholesterol level by doing a simple blood test, take preventive steps and enjoy healthy life.


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