holesterol can be confusing — how
can something that is necessary for
human life, that is present in every
cell, be bad for us?
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy,
UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS
fat-like substance that is found
in cells inside the body. It is used
in the body’s synthesis of various hormones
and bile acids. Because it is in every cell, your
liver makes all the cholesterol you need and
then circulates it through the blood. It cannot
dissolve in blood, and so particles known as
lipoproteins help transport it from the liver to
the cells via the bloodstream.
There are three types of lipids (fatty
substances) in the blood — low-density
lipoprotein, high-density lipoprotein and
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol
(LDL-C) — LDL-C sticks to artery walls,
contributing to the formation of plaque, a thick,
hard deposit that can clog arteries and make
them less flexible. LDL-C is often called “bad”
cholesterol, and low levels of it are considered
good for your heart.
High-density lipoprotein cholesterol
(HDL-C) — HDL-C is known as “good”
cholesterol because it helps remove LDL-C from
your arteries, transporting it to your liver for
removal. A higher level of HDL-C is considered
good for your heart; low levels of it have been
shown to increase the risk of heart disease.
Triglyceride — Triglyceride is the most
common type of fat in the body. A high
triglyceride level combined with low HDL
cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol is
associated with atherosclerosis.
WHY LDL-C AND TRIGLYCERIDE
The plaque buildup in arteries that LDL-C
& triglycerides contribute to is known as
atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”).
When plaque builds up, it can partly or entirely
block the blood flow of an artery in the heart,
brain, pelvis, legs, arms or kidneys. This can
lead to coronary heart disease, angina (chest
pain), carotid artery disease, peripheral artery
disease and chronic kidney disease.
Atherosclerosis can also lead to a heart
attack or stroke. That’s because a couple of
things can happen where plaque occurs:
• A piece of plaque may break off.
• A blood clot (thrombus) may form on the
uneven surface of plaque buildup.
If either of these travels through the body,
ultimately lodging in an artery to the heart, it
causes a heart attack. If lodged in an artery to,
or in, the brain, a stroke results.
WHY CHOLESTEROL MATTERS
By Jon Caswell