The Good And Bad About Cholesterol
Good health is often about maintaining a balance in your life. For example, your body needs cholesterol to survive. But too much can result in a variety of heart diseases and other health problems. Here is how keeping balanced levels of this substance in your body is important to your health.
Cholesterol is Not All Bad
Your body takes in cholesterol when you eat meat and dairy products. The liver processes cholesterol and sends it out to all of the cells in your body, which need this material to function. Should you not get enough cholesterol in your diet, your liver will actually manufacture it.
There are two forms of cholesterol that your body uses. Low density lipoproteins (LDL) are often called the "bad" cholesterol while high density lipoproteins (HDL) are considered the "good" forms. When a general practitioner does a blood test on you to check on your cholesterol, they are looking for a balance between these two types of cholesterol.
When Your Cholesterol is Out of Balance
Too much bad cholesterol in your bloodstream can create problems in the blood vessels, leading to heart disease and other issues. The good cholesterol prevents the bad cholesterol from causing these health issues. Only when a balance between the two forms of cholesterol is achieved through diet and exercise will you get the benefits from these substances without the bad side effects. Regular cholesterol screenings by your general practitioner will help you manage your cholesterol. Should you have an elevated LDL level, you may begin to have some of the following serious health consequences.
Coronary Artery Disease
When the LDL is too high, a fatty substance called plaque forms on the walls of some blood vessels. This restricts the flow of blood through the blood vessels. Your heart must work harder to get the blood through these vessels and out to your body.
When the blood vessels affected are the ones nourishing the heart muscle, called the coronary arteries, your heart begins to fail. The blood carries oxygen, which is important to the heart muscle. When the heart becomes starved of oxygen because of the reduced blood flow, you can develop chest pain, or angina. When the condition is severe, you could have a heart attack.
Should the plaque develop in blood vessels that carry blood to the brain, you can have a stroke. The severity of the stroke depends on how much of the brain was starved for blood and where in the brain this happens.
Peripheral Vascular Disease
When the plaque develops in blood vessels that supply blood to your legs and feet, you'll have a number of problems, such as:
- swelling in your legs and feet
- the legs and feet become cold
- muscle pain and cramps in the legs
Your family doctor will help you track your cholesterol levels. They will recommend diet and exercise changes so you have the right amount of good and bad cholesterol for your health. In some cases, medication can be used to help control your cholesterol to prevent severe health issues.