Cholesterol is a type of fat (lipid) which is useful for our body cells. It is necessary to a certain extent in order to produce hormones and vitamin D. Excess amounts of cholesterol is unhealthy.
The Majority of cholesterol, almost 80%, comes from the liver and the rest from our dietary intake.
Cholesterol is transported in our blood bound with protein and the combination is called lipoprotein. There are four different types of lipoproteins:
-High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good cholesterol”
-Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol”
-Very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), which are very bad forms of cholesterol
-Chylomicrons, which carry another fat called triglycerides.
LDL cholesterol builds up in the walls of arteries, causing “hardening of the arteries” or plaque build-up or atherosclerosis. People with atherosclerosis are predisposed to heart attack, stroke, and other problems caused by clogged arteries.
You should have a low level of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol.
On the other hand, you want to raise your “good” (HDL) cholesterol.
HDL cholesterol helps bring cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver—where it’s broken down and removed from your body.
What about triglycerides?
Triglycerides indicate the amount of fat in your blood. The extra calories your body does not use right away from food are converted into triglycerides, which are stored in fat cells. It’s not certain whether high triglycerides alone increases your risk of heart disease, but many people with high triglycerides also have high LDL or low HDL levels, which do increase the risk of heart disease. Your triglyceride levels are therefore important for your cardiovascular health.
In my next post, I will talk more about what is ideal cholesterol level and how to get there.
Dr. Mahesh Ochaney is a solo practitioner who has been practicing Internal Medicine since 1991. Dr. Ochaney’s compassionate primary care has been recognized several times over the years, including being named a 2018 Top Doctor by Baltimore Magazine and receiving a State of Maryland Governor’s Citation.