Cholesterol 101

You may hear a lot about the dangers of cholesterol and the health risks high cholesterol can cause. It may surprise you to know that cholesterol is one of the substances the body produces and needs to stay healthy. So why is everyone so concerned about it?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body produces and that you ingest through food. Your body, mainly the liver, produces all the cholesterol you need, but gets more from the meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products you eat. Additionally, your liver produces more cholesterol when your diet is high in saturated and trans fats.

The danger is that excess cholesterol can form plaque between layers of artery walls, making it difficult for the heart to circulate blood. In some cases, plaque can break open and lead to blood clots, which can cause strokes and heart attacks depending on if and where the clot blocks blood flow.

What you need to know is that there are two types of cholesterol, one that is “good” and one that is “bad”. Too much of one type or a deficiency of the other can put you at risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack, or stroke. The key to prevention is knowing the levels of cholesterol in your blood. Talk to your physician about your cholesterol and work with him/her to find the best plan to keep you healthy. The easiest steps you can take are maintaining a healthy diet and exercising frequently.



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