There is so much hype about the word ‘Cholesterol’ in today’s society, but not many of us know exactly why. Nor do we understand the topic all that much. So let’s try to learn some basics about Cholesterol, a component often referred to as a ‘Silent Killer’.
In a Nutshell…
Cholesterol is a category of ‘Fats’ or ‘Lipids’ that is essential for our bodily functions, and is an important component of all body cells. It is a waxy, fatty substance produced by the liver. It is also found in various food items, taken in as ‘dietary’ cholesterol.
Why is Cholesterol Important?
Our body produces all the cholesterol it requires. Why does our body need this cholesterol? The functions it plays in our body are numerous. As a component of our cell membranes, it provides a waterproof barrier that is necessary for proper functioning of our cells. It plays a key role in producing hormones and Vitamin D, and is important in developing our memory and is the key organic molecule that makes up our brain. As a precursor or a formulating molecule for sex hormones, bile salts and hormones of the adrenal cortex, it contributes indirectly for their functioning. It is also a powerful antioxidant that protects us from cancer.
This clearly confirms that Cholesterol is a very important component in our bodily functions. Then why all the propaganda on Cholesterol being bad for our body? As we all know, too much of something is not good! Same goes for Cholesterol. But the truth is more complicated than that.
Not all Cholesterol is bad for our body. What does that mean? To answer that, let’s understand Cholesterol a bit more in detail…
As Cholesterol is ‘fatty’ it doesn’t mix with water and thus, cannot be transported throughout our body via the blood stream, to carry out its various functions mentioned above. To correct this dilemma, our body gets help from a component called lipoproteins, which acts as a ‘package’ for facilitating the transporting of Cholesterol through our blood stream.
Types of Cholesterol
The cholesterol ‘packages’ or lipoproteins occur in two main types in our body. They are:
High Density Lipoprotein or HDL – These packages are used for bringing in cholesterol from various parts of the body, back to the liver.
Low Density Lipoprotein or LDL – Cholesterol Carried by this component is referred as LDL Cholesterol or more commonly, as ‘Bad’ Cholesterol.
What is LDL cholesterol or Bad Cholesterol?
As the name denotes, this is the component of Cholesterol that is discussed in so much detail today by everyone! So why is this cholesterol bad for our body?
Low-density lipoproteins are the key cholesterol carrier in our blood. If this component increases than the required threshold, it will slowly start depositing in our artery walls that carries blood to the heart and brain. Eventually, it can lead to the formation of plaques in our arteries and block or clog them from pumping blood to the heart and brain. And we all know what happens then… Heart Attack or Stroke! And this is the reason why people talk about cholesterol so much today.
So why do many people have increased levels of LDL cholesterol in today’s society? The reasons are numerous and some of them include bad eating habits, stress, lack of strenuous exercise due to comfortable lifestyles and the list can go on. And the most detrimental part about the topic of cholesterol is, many people are unaware about the condition until it reaches fatal levels. And often it’s too late for them at this stage.
But with so much interest on the topic, people are more aware of the importance of watching their cholesterol levels and go in for regular health checkups and practice better eating and fitness routines. Hope this article helped revive your interest on the topic too and made you determine to eat healthy food, stay fit and lead a stress free life!