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  • 02Sep

    Good and bad cholesterol – what is the difference?

    There are many false beliefs regarding good and bad cholesterol and their effects. Many people don’t know that cholesterol is mandatory for normal body functions. It becomes lethal only when it exceeds its normal level. But what exactly is cholesterol?

    Cholesterol

    Cholesterol is an organic waxy substance, classified as a steroid of fat. For the biosynthesis purposes it is used as a precursor of  steroid hormones.  Cholesterol is present in our body and performs many functions. It is essential for the proper development and maintenance of our cells and also controls the permeability of cell membranes. It supports the metabolism of fat-soluble vitamins, produces vitamin D in skin in the presence of sunlight and helps in the production of bile and hormones.


    We derive cholesterol from foodstuff  like meat, fish, eggs, milk, milk products etc. and it is also produced inside our body by the liver. Finally, cholesterol thus derived and produced enters into blood. As cholesterol molecules are insoluble in blood, certain protein substances called carrier lipoproteins help them to travel to the various parts of our body. Lipoproteins are a combination of lipids and proteins. They are able to carry cholesterol molecules to their target destinations.

    Types of cholesterol

    Three main types of cholesterol can be distinguished: LDL (low-density lipoproteins) – known also as bad cholesterol, HDL (high-density lipoproteins) – known also as good cholesterol and triglycerides. The characteristics of LDL and HDL cholesterol alter after binding with blood vessels.

    Atherosclerosis

    Cholesterol is an organic waxy substance, classified as a steroid of fat

    Triglycerides are reserved food material formed from not only fatty foods, but also carbohydrates. It is stored in adipose tissues and is consumed whenever there is a lack of energy.

    LDL cholesterol acts like a bad cholesterol. It gets attached to the walls of blood vessels and makes it narrow, causing atherosclerosis. As a consequence it results in an increase of blood pressure. Atherosclerosis is a serious dysfunction as it can lead to serious cardiovascular disorders like blocks, stroke, heart attack and other arterial diseases.

    HDL cholesterol can be defined as a good cholesterol as it helps in removing LDL cholesterol, which is deposited in the walls of blood vessels. In this way it prevents the occurrence of atherosclerosis.

    Factors increasing cholesterol

    Increased level of cholesterol in blood is known as hypercholesterolemia. It can be caused both by more intense production of LDL as well as decreased level of HDL. There may be many factors that can cause hypercholesterolemia:

    • high dietary intake of fats (especially trans-fats)
    • lack of physical activity
    • obesity
    • smoking
    • heredity
    • renal and thyroid diseases increase the level of LDL
    • usage of medicines like corticosteroids, diuretics etc.

    Age and gender also play a significant role in the incidence of cholesterol. As we are getting older the chance of having increased level of cholesterol grows, also men are more prone to hypercholesterolemia than women are.

    Symptoms

    Actually there are no early signs and symptoms of increased cholesterol level but we can see an acceleration of the blood pressure, which occur due to narrowing of our blood vessels. When the symptoms are already visible, the cholesterol level has surely exceeded the borderline. The symptoms that occur at the later stages are:

    • hypertension
    • angina (chest pain)
    • feeling tiredness during or after any physical activities

    The best way to control cholesterol is an early detection and treatment. The diagnosis of hypercholesterolemia is done by the study of lipid profile. Lipid profile is an estimation of  levels of LDL and HDL in blood. If LDL level (bad cholesterol) exceeds 160mg/dl it is considered high and the situation needs an emergency treatment.

    Treatment

    Drugs used to lower cholesterol level are called statins. These drugs act in liver and inhibit the production of LDL, so they prevent from further accumulation of LDL in the walls of arteries. At the same time normal HDL (good cholesterol) is produced and helps to remove LDL deposition. In this way the bad cholesterol level is controlled.

    If you are over the age of 22, it is recommended to check your cholesterol level at least once a year. It may seem very early but usually the deposition of cholesterol starts by the end of adolescence or at the beginning of adulthood. It is better to detect the actions and reactions of our body towards cholesterol at early stage and regulate the level of cholesterol ourselves by controlling the diet and doing physical exercises.

    Anna L.

    It’s all about health!
    I have academic background in drugs related Chemical Technology, as well as extensive professional experience in pharma and medical companies. My main area of interest is everyday life medicine. The goal of my articles is to give people informative answers to the questions that bother them, to dispel doubts and some common misbeliefs and also to inspire everyone to keep healthy lifestyle.

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