Understanding Cholesterol & Triglycerides
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy, fat-like substance that is found in the bloodstream and your body’s cells. Its role is to act as a building block for hormones in the body. Even though cholesterol is necessary to maintain a healthy body, it can be detrimental to your health if it is not maintained at the appropriate levels.
HDL vs. LDL
High-density lipoprotein is also referred to as “good” cholesterol. It helps protect against heart disease by taking excess cholesterol to the liver to be broken down. If a person’s HDL level is greater than or equal to 60 it is considered protective. The higher these levels, the better!LDL cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein, on the other hand, is considered bad. Excess LDL can lead to clogged arteries, heart disease, and atherosclerosis. The lower the better with LDL.Remember - you want the "L" Low and "H" High!
What are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are used in the body to store energy that can be used throughout the day. They are also the most common type of fat found in the body. Everyone needs some triglycerides in the blood stream, however, high levels of triglycerides are a risk factor for heart disease.
What affects Cholesterol Levels?
Physical Activity – Since regular exercise aids in weight loss it can also help increase HDL levels and decrease LDL and triglyceride levels. It is recommended that you participate in 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days a week if you are healthy and up to 60 minutes if you are overweight or have high levels of triglycerides in your body.
Diet – Red meat, pork and dairy can be high in saturated fat and increase your levels of LDL cholesterol. Choosing alternatives with more healthy fats such as fish, nuts, and seeds can help to lower LDL cholesterol. Foods with soluble fiber, like whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables can also help you to maintain lower LDL levels.
Weight – Being overweight puts you at risk for heart disease and high cholesterol. Maintaining a healthy weight can keep HDL cholesterol levels high, and LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels low.
Genetics - Family history plays a significant role in cholesterol levels. If you have a family history of high cholesterol and/or heart disease, you should pay special attention to your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.