When we hear the word ‘cholesterol,’ it is almost always certain that our immediate reaction to it is that it’s a bane to our health. To put it more specifically, we tend to connote cholesterol with heart disease. But not everything about cholesterol is bad. In fact, it carries out some functions that are beneficial to the body.
Cholesterol is known to assist in the digestion of fats. It also helps in the production of hormones and vitamin D in the body. The high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is considered "good" cholesterol because it transports cholesterol away from body tissues, thus preventing the clogging of blood vessels.
Yet our negative impression about cholesterol is not without any basis. As a matter of fact, cholesterol has so many drawbacks that far outweigh the advantages that we get from it. Foremost among these drawbacks is that indeed cholesterol can cause heart disease and stroke. That is, if its level is unnecessarily raised through our diet. We have to remember that most of the cholesterol our body needs is already produced by the liver. We also have to be aware that cholesterol is a constituent part of our body’s cell membranes and nerves, and is present in every tissue of our body.
Being waxy in characteristic, cholesterol clings to artery walls. In the process, it clogs the blood vessels, impedes the circulation of blood, and lessens the amount of oxygen that must otherwise move normally to the heart muscle and brain. If HDL is praised for being good cholesterol, another one is feared for being "bad." This is known as low-density lipoprotein, or LDL. This bad cholesterol is the one that adheres more easily to artery walls which coats the blood vessels with a plaque-like substance. Triglycerides are another concern. These are fats that supply fuel to the body. An increase in the level of triglycerides can adversely affect our body in much the same way that an increased level of LDL cholesterol can do.
Lowering total cholesterol level in the body may not actually be an accurate measure in avoiding the risk of heart disease. Instead, there should be a conscious effort in increasing HDL while reducing both LDL and triglycerides. The key to reducing LDL and triglycerides is in eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, soy foods, oats, and beans – foods that are rich in soluble fiber.
Having sufficient exercise is another key in lowering levels of LDL and triglycerides. Since exercise advances weight loss, it naturally helps in simultaneously increasing HDL cholesterol and in reducing LDL and triglycerides levels.