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Some Cholesterol is Good For You!

Kara Lo, HK BioTek Intern

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is in all cells. We get cholesterol from foods and also our bodies, we are making cholesterol on our own. Some people may say that all cholesterols are bad for health, so zero cholesterols are good. But is it true? Actually, it is not real. We need some cholesterols to function properly. So what kinds of cholesterols are beneficial to us?

What are HDL and LDL?

Cholesterols are hydrophobic, they can only travel freely in blood when attached to lipoproteins.

  • HDL (high-density lipoproteins): it is called ‘good’ cholesterol because HDL can carry cholesterols from different parts of the body back to our livers where can then be broken down.

  • LDL (low-density lipoproteins): it is called ‘bad’ cholesterol because LDL brings and builds cholesterols in our arteries causing cardiovascular diseases.

What health problems can LDL cause?

If too many LDL cholesterol accumulate in our arteries, walls are build up in the blood vessels, it is called “plaque”. When the plaque are built up over time, it narrows down the blood vessels. When we receive not enough oxygen due to the blockages, we might get angina (chest pain), a heart attack, carotid artery disease, stroke, or peripheral arterial disease.

How can I raise my HDL level?

HDL and LDL are in ratios. In order to raise HDL and lower LDL levels, it can be done by changing our lifestyles.

  1. Eating a healthy diet. We should limit saturated fats intake (full-fat milk and cheese, high-fat meats like sausage and bacon, and butter). We should also reduce trans fats (margarines, fried foods, and processed foods). Instead, unsaturated fats can raise HDL level, we get unsaturated fats in avocado, vegetable oils, and nuts. Besides, dietary fibers can lower LDL level as fibers can bind to cholesterol, then excrete out of our bodies.

  2. Maintaining a healthy weight. We can also raise HDL level by losing weight, especially if you are in a pear-body-shape.

  3. Exercising. Getting regular exercise (30 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise per day) can raise HDL and lower LDL levels.

  4. Avoiding cigarettes. Cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke reduce HDL level.

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