If you are reading this, then you are making strides to take care of your body and maintain a healthy diet for weight-loss. That includes maintaining a healthy cholesterol level, but many are confused about the ins and outs of what cholesterol actually is. September is Cholesterol Awareness Month, and there is no better time than now to start thinking about your cholesterol levels. Here are a few answers to some of your lingering questions about cholesterol.
- What is Cholesterol? It is a waxy, fat-like substance found in every cell in the body. While the word “cholesterol” is most often associated in a negative context, it is necessary to make hormones and vitamin D. It also plays a vital role in the digestive process, as some of the substances used to help you digest food need cholesterol. What is important is maintaining “good” cholesterol.
- LDL vs. HDL: Cholesterol moves through the bloodstream in lipoproteins. There are two kinds of lipoproteins – low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL is sometimes called “bad” cholesterol, because high levels of LDL causes the buildup of cholesterol in your arteries. HDL is considered good cholesterol. HDL carries cholesterol from other parts of your body to your liver, where cholesterol is removed from the body. While you do want to maintain your HDL levels, it is important that you have healthy levels of both high and low-density lipoproteins.
- Who’s at Risk? According to the Center for Disease Control, over 31% of Americans have high cholesterol. You may be one of those 31% who decided to be proactive by starting a healthy diet for weight-loss and overall general wellness. People who have a BMI of 30 or greater are at risk of high cholesterol. If you eat a diet full of animal products, trans fats, and baked goods, you are also at risk of having high cholesterol. Other risk factors include smoking, diabetes, and lack of exercise.
- Maintaining Healthy Levels: In most cases, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels can be achieved without medication. Eating a healthy diet free from trans fats and high in omega-3 fatty acids helps maintain healthy cholesterol. Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise most days a week and properly managing stress also plays a vital role in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Drinking too much alcohol and the lack of fiber in your diet may also impact your cholesterol levels.