Thinking about Cholesterol

by Jason Lewis, Fitness Instructor, CEO Custom Strength Fitness.

Caribbean food is amongst the most delicious in the world, of that there is no doubt. But have you stopped to consider the amount of cholesterol you take into your body? I always say cholesterol is a bit like a mosquito. You know it’s there, but before you know it, zap! It’s bitten you on the butt!

So what is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy like fatty substance, produced in the liver and other cells. Cholesterol is also found in certain foods, such as, dairy products, eggs and meat. Your body does need some cholesterol in order to work properly. Our cell walls and membranes use it to produce hormones, vitamin D and also those juices and acids needed to digest our food.

Cholesterol and Heart Disease

When too much cholesterol is present in our body, a thick hard deposit may form in the body’s arteries, narrowing the space for blood to flow to and from the heart. If left unchecked, over time this build-up causes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) which can lead to heart disease. In a situation where not enough oxygen-carrying blood reaches the heart, chest pain (angina) can happen.

When blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by total blockage of a coronary artery, the result is a heart attack. This is usually due to a sudden closure from a blood clot forming on top of a previous narrowing.

Types of Cholesterol

Cholesterol is broken down into the following categories

Low density lipoproteins (LDL): LDL, also called “bad” cholesterol, can cause buildup of plaque on the walls of arteries. The more LDL there is in the blood, the greater the risk of heart disease.

High density lipoproteins (HDL): HDL, also called “good” cholesterol, helps the body get rid of bad cholesterol in the blood. The higher the level of HDL cholesterol, the better. If levels of HDL are low, the risk of heart disease increases.

Very low density lipoproteins (VLDL): VLDL is similar to LDL cholesterol in that it contains mostly fat and not much protein.

Triglycerides: Triglycerides are another type of fat that is carried in the blood by very low density lipoproteins. Excess calories, alcohol, or sugar in the body are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells throughout the body.

What Factors Affect Cholesterol Levels?

A variety of factors can affect cholesterol levels. They include:

Diet. Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat increase cholesterol levels. Try to reduce the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet. Think about cutting down on fried foods.

Weight. In addition to being a risk factor for heart disease, being overweight can also increase cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels, as well as increase HDL cholesterol.

Exercise. You should try to be physically active for at least 30 minutes on most days. Regular exercise can lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol.

Age and Gender. As we get older, cholesterol levels rise. Before menopause, women tend to have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After menopause, however, women’s LDL levels tend to rise.

Diabetes. Poorly controlled diabetes increases cholesterol levels. With improvements in control, cholesterol levels can fall.

Heredity. Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol the body makes. High blood cholesterol can run in families.
Other causes. Certain medications and medical conditions can cause high cholesterol.

So before we enter the season of cheer, think about the mosquito that is cholesterol, and don’t let it bite you on the butt!

Jason Lewis is Fitness Instructor and CEO of Custom Strength Fitness.

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