A Lesson on Cholesterol

by Jsantos, June 28, 2014

Nutrition: A Lesson on Cholesterol

As we get older, people tend to worry more about their health since the body starts to run differently. In this space, we have been given a lot of information to avoid you from having orthopedic injuries, how to train as an athlete and prevent sports medicine related trauma as well as how to live a healthy lifestyle and nutrition. All this aspects form part of the same equation: us. Today, we want to talk about a topic that affects a lot of americans and the rest of the world: cholesterol. Take the time to understand deeply about the subject and how in our overall effort to bring relevant information, this one can help you live a better life. The following is a excerpt from author Monique N. Gilbert.

The American Heart Association states that cholesterol is a substance found in all animal-based foods and fats. Plant-based foods do not contain  cholesterol. They also say that human body constantly makes cholesterol, mostly in the liver and kidneys. In our body, cholesterol is most common in the blood, brain tissue, liver, kidneys, adrenal glands, and the fatty covers around nerve fibers. It helps absorb and move fatty acids.

Cholesterol is necessary to form cell membranes, for the making of vital D on the surface of the skin and the making of various hormones, including the sex hormones. It sometimes hardens in the gallbladder and forms into gallstones. High amounts of cholesterol in the blood have been linked to the development of cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels, known as atherosclerosis.

Cholesterol, and other fats, cannot dissolve in the blood. They have to be transported to and from the cells by special carriers of lipids and proteins called lipoproteins. There are several kinds of lipoproteins, but the ones to be most concerned about are low density and high-denisty lipoproteins.

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) carries the bulk of the cholesterol in the blood and has a central role in the atherosclerotic process. LDL penetrates the walls of blood vessels and arteries feeding the heart and brain; where they are oxidized by free radicals and accumulate as a gruel-like material that blocks the blood vessels. When this plaque-like material leaks into the blood vessel, it can cause a blood clot (thrombosis). Thrombosis can lead to a stroke if the clot goes to the brain, or heart attack if the clot blocks a coronary artery. A high level of LDL cholesterol reflects an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, which is why LDL cholesterol is often called the bad cholesterol.

High-density lipoproteins (HDL) only carries approximately one-third to one-fourth of the blood cholesterol in our body. HDL cholesterol has a protective effect, preventing LDL oxidation and removing cholesterol that accumulates in the blood vessel walls. Medical experts believe HDL carries cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is eliminated from the body. They also suspect HDL removes excess cholesterol from atherosclerotic plaques and slows their growth. A high level if HDL seems to protect against heart attack and stroke, which is why HDL is knows as good cholesterol.

Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL). Total blood cholesterol is the most common measurement of cholesterol. It is the number you normally receive as test results. Knowing your total blood cholesterol level is an important first step in determining your risk for heart disease and stroke.

An important second step is to know your level of good HDL cholesterol in relation to total cholesterol. Some doctors use the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol. The goal is to keep the ratio below 5 to 1, with optimum ratio at 3.5 to 1.

Triglycerides are also often measured when testing for cholesterol levels. Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food as well as in the body. Calories ingested in a meal and not used immediately are converted to triglycerides and transported to fat cells to be stored. Hormones regulate the release of triglycerides from fat tissue so they meet the body’s needs for energy between meals. Elevated triglycerides are linked to the occurrence of coronary artery disease and may be a consequence of other diseases, such as untreated diabetes mellitus.  Saturated fats and trans fats (trans fatty acids) are the chief culprits in raising blood cholesterol and triglycerides. Ingesting animal-based products and hydrogenated fats can significantly increase both of these levels. This is why it is important to understand how cholesterol affects our body, and why we should try to keep it under control.



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