We all tend to have the same misconceptions when it comes to cholesterol. It is produced by your body and the food that you eat and there are both "good" and "bad" kinds. But does all that really help us get any closer to understanding cholesterol? Knowing why maintaining cholesterol is important, the difference between "good" and "bad" as well as the lifestyle changes needed to achieve the adequate levels of it within your body are the only ways to comprehend the significance of cholesterol.
Why watch your cholesterol?
If you were holding cholesterol right now in your hand, you would be carrying a fat and waxy substance resembling the aftermath of a candle burning. Putting cholesterol into this perspective can help understand why having too much of it in your arteries and bloodstream is not a healthy idea. This is not to say that you don't want cholesterol in your body. We use it in a variety of ways:
- To produce testosterone, estrogen and vitamin D
- To strengthen the outer coatings of cells
- To help break down food and nutrients during digestion
The thing to remember is that your body produces all the cholesterol it needs by itself, which is approximately 1,000 milligrams a day to effectively function. When you start to add up all the cholesterol you obtain through eating food, the levels can get a little crowded. Too much of this fatty substance being ingested will produce too much plaque to start building up between layers of artery walls, which in turn makes it more of a challenge for your heart to circulate blood to the rest of your body. This is why you are constantly being bombarded with urgent messages to lower cholesterol.
Good versus bad
First thing to remember with this battle between good and evil is that HDL (high-density lipoproteins) cholesterol is the "good" kind and LDL (low-density lipoproteins) is the "bad" type. According to Harvard Health Publications, 60 to 70 percent of the body's cholesterol is carried in LDL particles. While these LDL specs work to take cholesterol to parts of the body that need it, eventually they will continue to build up excess cholesterol in arteries when you are consuming too much of the substance. HDL on the other hand essentially works as the opposite of LDL, by sucking up extra cholesterol and taking it to the liver so it can in a sense by recycled for other usage in the body. If you're trying to get more HDL in your system than LDL, it's important to note that lifestyle factors have more of an impact than dieting does.
Factors that lower cholesterol
When it comes to finding a cholesterol-effective diet, there are a few solid suggestions that can make an impact on limiting LDL and raising HDL. First off, eliminating trans fat from your diet is an effective measure toward reducing total cholesterol. This means being able to distinguish the difference between "fat-free" and "trans fat-free" on the product labels. Consuming nutrients that are found in whole-grain foods is another key source for limiting cholesterol intake, and eating foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids will help lower LDL cholesterol. While you might think that exercise is easier said than done, there are plenty of simple ways to get a sufficient workout in that doesn't require a gym membership. Changing your morning commute is one of the easiest ways to get the 30 minutes of daily exercise you need. Instead of making that drive, why not ride your bike or rollerblade to work? When you're on your lunch break, don't just sit on the computer or watch television while chowing down. Instead, pack a light lunch and go for a quick walk around town while you finish your meal.
When you make a few simple adjustments to your lifestyle, the affects can do wonders for your cholesterol levels. Thirty minutes of exercise each day can not only help you lose weight, but help stimulate HDL cholesterol in your body to work harder to remove unwanted fatty substances from your arteries. Other lifestyle choices that are attributed to raising cholesterol levels are smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol. According to the Mayo Clinic, your blood pressure decreases after just 20 minutes of sustaining from cigarette use, which also improves your HDL levels. The Mayo Clinic also recommends that those who are under the age of 65 should never exceed two drinks a day.