The heart works hard to pump that blood throughout the entire body of blood vessels. It is forced to work even harder when we don’t take care of it. You may know something about cholesterol, but keep reading to find out how it can be unfriendly to your heart.
Cholesterol is a waxy-type of fat found in the body. It is produced in the liver mainly, but also in the reproductive organs and the adrenal glands. It is transported through the body in the blood, as lipoproteins, to the sites where it is needed.
Cholesterol is not all bad. It does have a friendly function inside your body, in the right amounts. Cholesterol helps with the integrity of cellular membranes. Because it is insoluble in water (for the most part) it can control what substances go into and out of the cell.
Cholesterol is also an integral part of many hormones – estrogen and testosterone are just two of them. These sex hormones are important during puberty and beyond for proper development and reproduction. So, don’t condemn this naturally occurring substance too soon.
The Problem with Cholesterol
Now, you have often heard about good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. You probably know what foods contain which, but do you know what it does in your body?
As stated, the liver produces most of the cholesterol. If more is needed, it is processed from the foods we eat. There are healthy fats and not so healthy fats that we eat every day. The unhealthy ones come from processed baked goods, candy bars, fatty meats and the like. Eating these foods once in a while is okay but eating them too often and in large amounts affects your body in a bad way, specifically your heart and blood vessels.
You only need to get 20% of your cholesterol from food. Check the labels. Eating foods that contain bad cholesterol is not a good choice. Instead, choose foods and ingredients that contain good cholesterol like unsaturated oils (olive, flaxseed, canola) and foods with healthy fats (nuts, cold water fish).
In your body, bad fats are metabolized just like the good ones. LDL (low density lipoproteins) is the bad fat. It is an oxidized form of fat that is quite sticky and can attach to your artery walls, where they harden into plaque.
These plaques narrow the opening through which blood has to pass, resulting in less blood being able to pass through. To get less blood through the same vessels, the heart has to pump harder. If the narrowed vessels are coronary arteries, then the heart is not receiving enough blood to do its job properly. Compromised blood flow can lead to a heart attack.
The good news is that good fats contribute to HDL levels, or good cholesterol. It travels around the bloodstream picking up stray bad cholesterol and ridding the body of it. Higher HDL levels work to prevent the buildup of cholesterol plaques.
Now that you know about cholesterol, you can choose foods that will help your heart do its job and reduce your risk of stroke or heart attack.
Hope you are enjoying the Healthy Heart Series.
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