Find out what the numbers mean and how you can lower your cholesterol
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of fat which is carried around in your blood. Cholesterol is essential for your body - it is necessary for building cells and it helps to produce some hormones, such as oestrogen and testosterone. Unless you are severely malnourished, your body produces all the cholesterol it needs, so you do not need to eat foods containing cholesterol. There are two types of cholesterol – one good and one bad.
Where does cholesterol come from?
Cholesterol is found in animal products. This includes meat, dairy and eggs. There is no cholesterol in plant products. Although animal products contain cholesterol, it is not necessary to cut them out of your diet. You can safely eat up to six eggs per week, and the benefits you get from eating seafood far outweigh the cholesterol content.
What is bad cholesterol?
The scientific name for bad cholesterol is low density lipoprotein (LDL). It is often referred to as simply LDL. LDL is known as ‘bad’ cholesterol because having high levels of LDL is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral artery disease. If there is too much bad cholesterol in your blood it ends up sticking to the walls of your arteries, which causes your artery walls to thicken and your arteries to narrow, decreasing the blood flow through the area. This process is called ‘atherosclerosis’.
What is good cholesterol?
The scientific name for good cholesterol is high density lipoprotein (HDL). It is often referred to as simply HDL. HDL is known as ‘good’ cholesterol because HDL extracts bad cholesterol from your artery walls and disposes of it through your liver. Good cholesterol helps to protect you against heart disease and stroke.
What is total cholesterol?
Total cholesterol is the sum of all the cholesterol in your blood. This includes HDL, LDL and triglycerides. Triglycerides are not technically a type of cholesterol, but they come with their own health risks, and are often associated with high levels of bad cholesterol.
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