Cholesterol - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Erik N. Steele, D.O.
Feb. 10, 2009
Cholesterol is a waxy substance made by the liver and also supplied in the diet through animal products such as meats, poultry, fish and dairy products. Cholesterol is needed (in the body) to insulate nerves, make cell membranes and produce certain hormones. However, the body makes enough cholesterol, so any dietary cholesterol isn’t needed. Too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to cardiovascular disease-America’s No. 1 killer. Understanding the facts about cholesterol will help you take better care of your heart and live a healthier life, reducing your risk of heart attack.
High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as the “good” cholesterol. Your body makes HDL cholesterol for your protection. It carries cholesterol away from your arteries. Studies suggest that high levels of HDL cholesterol reduce your risk of heart attack.
Low-density lipoprotein , or LDL, is know as the “bad” cholesterol. Too much LDL cholesterol can clog your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, cholesterol and other substances build up in the walls of your arteries. This build up is called plaque. Over time, it causes “hardening of the arteries” so that arteries become narrowed and blood flow to the heart is slowed down.
The blood carries oxygen to the heart, and if enough blood and oxygen cannot reach your heart, you may suffer chest pain. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by a blockage, the result is a heart attack. Heart attacks most commonly occur when plaques become fragile and rupture. Then blood clots are formed and can completely cut off blood supply to a portion of the heart.
The American Heart Association’s Cholesterol Tracker is a great tool for help managing cholesterol.