Cholesterol: A vital fat essential for optimal body function

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that belongs to the class of lipids. It plays an important role in the human body and is involved in many biological processes. The adult human body normally contains about 140 grams of cholesterol, of which about 0.3-0.5 grams comes from food and the remaining 1 gram is synthesised in the body. Every cell can make its own cholesterol if it needs to. However, the main “producers” are the liver and the small intestine.

Cholesterol: A vital fat essential for optimal body function
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Bad and good cholesterol

People often talk about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol, but it is important to realise that cholesterol itself is neither good nor bad. The difference lies in the type of lipoproteins that carry it.

Cholesterol carried by high-density lipoproteins (HDL) is considered ‘good’ cholesterol. As well as delivering cholesterol to cells, these lipoproteins also collect excess cholesterol, including that which can stick to the walls of blood vessels with the “bad” cholesterol. They then carry it back to the liver for processing and elimination from the body. Elevated levels of ‘good’ cholesterol are considered healthy because they help to clean the blood vessels and prevent the formation of cholesterol plaques.

On the other hand, ‘bad’ cholesterol is carried by low-density lipoproteins (LDL). These lipoproteins can stick to the walls of blood vessels and form cholesterol plaques, which can lead to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.

How cholesterol affects the body

The right balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol is essential for maintaining cardiovascular health. Elevated levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol may be associated with the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.

Medical research has also linked elevated cholesterol levels to other conditions such as cholelithiasis and atherosclerosis. The narrowing of blood vessels due to the formation of cholesterol plaques can lead to poor circulation and chronic heart and vascular problems.

Monitoring cholesterol levels

Cholesterol levels can be measured by a blood test. A simple test shows the total cholesterol content, but for a more detailed assessment of the condition, the ratio of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ cholesterol, as well as triglyceride levels, should be considered. Cholesterol levels vary according to the risk of cardiovascular disease, and your doctor can help you determine the recommended level.

In summary

Cholesterol is an important component of our bodies, necessary for the normal functioning of cells and the synthesis of important substances. However, its levels need to be within certain limits to maintain cardiovascular health. Controlling cholesterol levels, eating a healthy diet and living a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other related problems.

Prepared by Mary Clair

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