Whether you have a heart condition and are being treated by one of our cardiologists or you are generally healthy, you have likely heard of cholesterol. However, most people are unclear about what makes some cholesterol good or bad, or whether it should be avoided altogether. Let’s get started with some key facts.
Cholesterol is a lipid (fat) that is created by the liver. While it serves many purposes, the three main functions are:
1. Assisting in the creation of sex hormones.
2. Serving as a building block for human tissue
3. Helping in the production of liver bile, which aids in digestion.
The two main types are High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL) and Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL). Both are necessary in moderation to carry out their own individual roles and important functions.
What Does LDL Do for You?
Although often referred to as the "bad" cholesterol, LDL has crucial functions in the body. It delivers cholesterol to cells, which is then utilized for the synthesis of steroid hormones, among other roles. However, when consumed in excess, LDL cholesterol can build up in the arteries, causing high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and hardening of arteries. High blood pressure has a negative effect on heart health and can lead to heart disease. If the buildup progresses, it could lead to a heart attack or a stroke.
What Does HDL Do for You?
HDL acts like a scavenger: It goes to the cells, collects excess cholesterol, and takes it back to the liver. It is known as the "good," or "healthy," cholesterol because it carries the excess LDL away from the arteries, therefore unclogging them. By consuming more foods that contain HDL, rather than LDL, you’re less likely to have cholesterol buildup in your body and may lower your risk of heart disease.
Where Is Cholesterol Found?
Cholesterol is found in animal products that contain fat. Foods with high sources of LDL include red meat, egg yolks, deep-fried foods, and full-fat dairy products. An often-unexpected source of LDL is processed foods such as cookies, crackers, and other packaged foods that contain high-fat animal products. Keep in mind that saturated fats in food products with animal materials are the biggest dietary cause of high LDL levels.
HDL is not found in food; however, there are items that can be consumed in order to increase HDL in your body. These foods include whole grains, plant-based foods, and oils such as olive oil.
What Can I Do if I Have High Cholesterol?
High cholesterol can be managed through dietary changes. Keeping a diary of each food you consume for a week and checking which contains cholesterol and which can help increase HDL is a good starting point. Then, you can adjust your diet with the help of your cardiologist, primary physician, or nutritionist to lower your cholesterol. It can also be managed with medication if the change is necessary immediately. Be sure to consult your primary-care physician or cardiologist before making any changes to your diet or medication, especially if you have a heart condition.
Are you ready to bring down your cholesterol levels?
Schedule an appointment with North Suffolk Cardiology today at 631-203-8863
Stay tuned for our nutrition program, starting this year!