We’re sure you’ve heard about cholesterol, but hearing about it and understanding it are two very different things. There’s good cholesterol, bad cholesterol and a wide range of factors that affect both. Everyone, but especially those with diabetes, need to know their numbers in order to stay healthy. We’ve got your starter kit to understanding not only what cholesterol is, but why it matters and what you can do to keep your numbers in check.
Cholesterol 101 - What is Cholesterol?
1. What Is Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a type of fat found in the blood. We all have cholesterol, which is a good thing because the body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D and substances to help us digest food. The body will make all the cholesterol is could ever need, but many of us consume a fair amount of cholesterol is our diet – a big reason why cholesterol levels are something we all need to keep an eye.
2. Genetics Play a Big Part
Many of us associate cholesterol with fatty foods but the truth is that most of the cholesterol in our system is made by our very own bodies. “The liver produces 75% of the cholesterol that circulates in our blood. The other 25% comes from food”. Genes that trigger the production of excess cholesterol can be inherited but for many, diet is the main culprit of high cholesterol.
3. The Good and the Bad
Good cholesterol (HDL) helps our cells do their jobs and removes bad cholesterol from our blood stream. A diet of healthy fats like olive oil and nuts can help boost these levels. On the other hand, bad Cholesterol or LDL is responsible for clogging our arteries. For most, an LDL score below 100 is healthy. For both these cholesterol types, diet and genetics play a role in their levels.
4. Remove These from the Grocery Cart
Gone are the days when fat is the enemy (and that’s a good thing) but it doesn’t mean you can eat unlimited fat. Your diet should be made up of no more than 35% fat, but not all fats are created equally. Saturated fats raise bad cholesterol and Trans fats both raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol. Foods like fried foods, margarine and cookies are full of these two bad fats.
5. Reach for These Instead
If you’re having problems keeping your cholesterol in check or just want to get a jump on healthier habits, your diet can do wonders for fighting high cholesterol. Fiber from foods like whole-grain breads, oatmeal, vegetables and legumes helps to reduce bad cholesterol levels. Proteins from fish are also great aid in fighting high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week.
6. Why Cholesterol Matters
Keeping an eye on your cholesterol levels is extremely important to your overall health. Coronary artery disease, heart attacks, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease are all diseases that those with high cholesterol are at a serious risk for developing. This is because high levels of cholesterol leads to a buildup of plaque in the arteries, restricting blood flow to the brain and heart.