Normal Cholesterol Levels
What is Cholesterol? Cholesterol is a substance that is mainly produced by the liver and is made up of fats. It is found naturally throughout the human body and it is required in order for the systems of the body to function properly. The cells of the body use cholesterol to build their membranes, cholesterol aids in digestion, and the body uses it to make bile salts, vitamin D, and hormones.
As the cholesterol travels through the bloodstream the cells take what they need and the excess remains in the bloodstream. It is this extra cholesterol left in the bloodstream that can cause clogged blood vessels and can bring about various heart diseases.
Elevated blood cholesterol has been shown to be a risk factor for the development of heart disease, stroke, and atherosclerotic vascular disease. Some cholesterol is produced by the body while the remainder is received through the diet. Cholesterol is a building block for the adrenal and sex hormones, cell membranes, and bile acids so it is required for proper health, however, it is a fatty substance that is not dissolved in blood and must be carried by protein complexes known as lipoproteins.
Lipoproteins are a combination of a protein and a fat. Total cholesterol is a combined measurement of the three most common lipoprotein carriers: high density lipoprotein (HDL), low density lipoprotein (LDL), and very low density lipoprotein (VLDL).
HDL is "good cholesterol" because it lowers your risk of atherosclerosis. The body actually makes its own HDL, which can help to remove the excess cholesterol from the bloodstream and tissues.
LDL is "bad cholesterol" and is associated with atherosclerotic vascular disease. The body cannot use LDL so it can become plaque and clog the arteries.
A healthy diet is very important in the treatment of elevated and unbalanced cholesterol and is an important measure in limiting the risk of heart disease. Patients are encouraged to eat foods low in cholesterol. Foods high in saturated fat should be avoided.
Lisa Wells, RN
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