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Cholesterol - THE GOOD! * THE BAD! * THE UGLY!

Sep 6, 2008
INTRODUCTION: Cholesterol is a lipid (A greasy organic compound that is not soluble in water.) found in the cell membranes of all tissues, and is carried in the blood plasma of all animals. It is also considered a sterol (a combination steroid and alcohol) and is more abundant in tissues which either synthesize more of it or have more abundant densely-packed membranes, for example, the liver, spinal cord and brain and is NOT soluble in blood, but is transported in the circulatory system bound to one of the varieties of lipoproteins. Cholesterol is needed in the membranes of mammalian cells for normal cell function, and is either synthesized or derived from the diet, in which case it is carried by the bloodstream in low-density lipoproteins.

It is minimally soluble in water; it cannot dissolve and flow in the water-based bloodstream. It is mostlly found in animal fats: all food containing animal fats has cholesterol in it; food not containing animal fats either contains none or negligible amounts. It's a waxy, fat-like material that can build up on the walls of your arteries (blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body) and plays necessary roles in the formation of cell membranes, some hormones, and vitamin D.

DISEASE: Large amounts of low density particles (LDL) are strongly associated with the presence of arterial disease within the arteries. By contrast, having small amounts of large particles (HDL) has been independently associated with arterial disease progression within the arteries. In other words too much LDL or too little HDL is associated with arterial disease. This disease process can develop into myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke and peripheral vascular disease.

It is advised that you have your cholesterol levels tested more frequently than 5 years if a person: has total levels of 200 mg/dL or more, is a man over 45 years of age or a woman over 50 years of age, has HDL (good) cholesterol less than 40 mg/dL, or other risk factors for heart disease and stroke. A campaign is under way to teach women that heart disease isn't just a problem for men.

It's estimated that 70,000,000 americans have at least 1 form of heart disease. Latest results from the Women's Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial showed that eating a low-fat diet for eight years DID NOT prevent heart disease, breast cancer, or colon cancer, and didn't do much for weight loss, either.

What is becoming clearer and clearer is that bad fats, meaning saturated and trans fats, increase the risk for certain diseases while good fats, meaning mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats, decrease the chance. In a study of over 80,000 female nurses, Harvard researchers actually found that raising cholesterol intake by 200 mg for every 1000 calories in the diet (about an egg a day) DID NOT appreciably elevate the risk for heart disease. Recent research by Harvard investigators has illustrated that moderate egg consumption--up to one a day--DOES NOT raise heart disease risk in healthy individuals. People with diabetes, though, should probably limit themselves to no more than 2 or 3 eggs a week, as the Nurse's Health Study found that for such persons, an egg a day might increase the risk for heart disease.

LEVELS: According to the lipid hypothesis, abnormally high cholesterol levels (AKA hypercholesterolemia) and abnormal proportions of LDL and HDL are associated with cardiovascular disease by promoting atheroma development in arteries (atherosclerosis). Since high LDL contributes to this process, it is termed "bad cholesterol", while high levels of HDL ("good cholesterol") offer a degree of protection against heart disease. Abnormally low levels are termed hypocholesterolemia. As has been said, high levels of cholesterol in the blood can increase your risk of heart disease and your levels tend to rise as you get older. In the 1960s and 70s, scientists established a link between high blood levels and heart disease.

Some forms of fat are clearly good for cholesterol levels and others are clearly bad for them. While it is well known that elevated blood levels are associated with an elevated risk for heart disease, scientific studies have shown that there is only a weak relationship between the amount of cholesterol a person "eats" and their blood cholesterol levels or chance for heart disease.

For some people with elevated levels, reducing the quantity in the diet has a small but helpful impact on blood cholesterol levels. While it's true that egg yolks have a lot of cholesterol--and, therefore may slightly affect blood levels--eggs also contain nutrients that may help reduce the risk for heart disease, including protein, vitamins B12 and D, riboflavin, and folate. Saturated fats increase total blood levels more than dietary cholesterol because they tend to boost both good HDL and bad LDL. Trans fats are even worse than saturated fats because they increase bad LDL and decrease good HDL.

In studies in which poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats were eaten in place of carbohydrates, these good fats decreased LDL levels and increased HDL levels. Logically, most of the influence that fat intake has on heart disease is due to its effect on blood cholesterol levels. In other words, low-fat diets appear to offer no apparent advantages over diets with fat levels close to the national average.

CONCLUSION: Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like material that is found in all cells of the body and is also found in some of the foods you consume. It is recommended by the American Heart Association to test cholesterol levels every 5 years for persons aged 20 years or older. There are usually no signs or symptoms that you have elevated blood cholesterol, but it can be detected with a blood test. You are likely to have high levels if members of your family have it, if you are overweight or if you consume a lot of fatty foods. You can lower your cholesterol by exercising more and eating more fruits and vegetables. You also may need to take medicine to lower it.
About the Author
About The Author: Richard H. Ealom is an ezinearticles.com writer and has written many articles on Diseases,Causes,Cures. To learn more about Lowering Cholesterol Levels visit Beating cholesterol! You have permission to use this article as long as this box is left unchanged.
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