Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is primarily made by the liver, although some come from what you eat. Contrary to popular belief, not all cholesterol is bad. Good cholesterol is actually an essential component of cell membranes and is used by the body to produce hormones and vitamin D.


Cholesterol is carried through the bloodstream attached to two different compounds called lipoproteins: high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). HDL, known as the “good cholesterol,” picks up cholesterol from the blood and delivers it to cells that use it, or takes it back to the liver to be recycled or eliminated from the body. On the other hand, LDL is commonly known as the “bad” cholesterol because it transports cholesterol from the liver throughout the body, and potentially allows it to be deposited in artery walls.


Now, if you have high bad cholesterol level, chances are you are also at risk for heart disease. Too much cholesterol in the blood builds up on artery walls causing hardening of the arteries also known as atherosclerosis. The build up of cholesterol narrows arteries which slows or blocks the flow of oxygen-carrying blood to the heart. If blood flow to the heart is cut off because of clogged arteries, the result is damage to the heart muscle, and eventually, a heart attack.
High levels of bad cholesterol do not cause any symptom, so there are no outward signs that your levels are too high and thereby posing a risk to your heart. However, your cholesterol levels can be measured by a blood test done which can be done after you’ve fasted for nine to 12 hours. Results will reveal your total cholesterol level, your LDL and HDL levels as well as levels of triglycerides, the most common type of fat in the body.


Desirable levels of total cholesterol are 200 mg per deciliter of blood or less. A desirable level of heart protective HDL cholesterol is 60 mg/dL or higher, while a desirable level of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol is less than 100 mg/dL – the lower your LDL, the better in terms of heart disease risk. The American Heart Association reports that the mean triglyceride level for American adults age 20 and older is 144.2 mg/dl.


If your test results reveal values higher or lower than normal, consult with your doctor for proper treatment.


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