Prevea Health

Understanding Cholesterol

 
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Cholesterol. We’ve all heard about it, but what is it? Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body needs to make hormones, vitamin D and substances to aid digestion. Your body makes all of the cholesterol it needs, but the foods we eat can lead to excess amounts. Cholesterol can be measured with a blood test.

There are three types of cholesterol found in the body:

LDL (bad cholesterol). This cholesterol causes fatty buildups in your arteries, which can raise your risk for heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. The normal range of LDL should be about 130 or lower.

HDL (good cholesterol).  A healthy HDL cholesterol level can help protect against heart attack and stroke. HDL carries LDL cholesterol away from your arteries to your liver, where it’s broken down. The normal range of HDL cholesterol should be more than 40 for men and more than 50 for women.

Triglycerides. The most common type of fat in the body, triglycerides store excess energy from you diet. A high level, combined with high LDL cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol can cause fatty buildups along your artery walls, increasing your risk of stroke or heart attack.  

When there is an excessive amount of cholesterol in your body, it builds up in the arteries, and can cause plaque deposits, which can block or narrow blood flow to vital organs. Limiting foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats and trans fats will help to keep your cholesterol levels in a normal range. Exercise also helps to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy.

If you have questions or concerns about your cholesterol levels, talk to your health care provider for more information.
 
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