When you take the steps to live a healthy lifestyle, it means understanding how to keep your body in balance. Part of this is learning the healthy levels of certain components in your blood, including cholesterol. However, there are two sides to cholesterol — good and bad.
At Shine Health and Wellness, our team helps you get your body to the level of health that you’ve been working toward. Our team is led by Dr. Kimberly Shine, our family medicine practitioner. She helps you understand the role of cholesterol in your health.
What exactly is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a substance that your body makes naturally in your liver. However, that isn’t the only way to get cholesterol. Cholesterol also comes from certain foods, such as meats, cheeses, and eggs.
So why do you need cholesterol? The cells in your body actually require cholesterol to make essential hormones that you need. It’s also responsible for making vitamin D and other substances that your body requires for certain processes like digestion.
However, although your body does need some cholesterol, too much of it can cause a problem. When you take in too much cholesterol, the excess in your blood attaches to other substances to form something known as plaque.
Plaque is dangerous, as it can adhere to your arteries, causing a condition that’s known as atherosclerosis. This condition is a precursor to coronary artery disease, which is the narrowing of these arteries from substances like plaque.
High cholesterol is sometimes genetic, but other factors play into this condition, including an unhealthy diet and a lack of exercise. Smoking may also increase your cholesterol as well.
Although there is bad cholesterol, there’s actually good cholesterol as well.
Is good cholesterol really good?
Cholesterol is essential to your body, in moderation of course. But did you know there are several different types of cholesterol? Each one of the different types of cholesterol has a different purpose and effect on your body. There are three main types of cholesterol:
This stands for high-density lipoprotein and is considered good cholesterol. HDL is good because it gathers excess cholesterol from your body and transports it back to your liver. Your liver then takes the excess cholesterol and rids it from your body.
Low-density lipoprotein is the opposite of HDL. LDL is the bad form of cholesterol, because if you have too much of it, plaque forms in your arteries. This may lead to a number of conditions, including coronary artery disease.
VLDL is also known as very low-density lipoprotein and is also considered a bad form of cholesterol. However, it does differ from LDL because instead of carrying cholesterol, VLDL is mostly made up of triglycerides.
So is HDL really a good form of cholesterol? The answer is a little more complicated. Although HDL does carry excess LDL back to the liver, it really only eliminates about a quarter of the bad cholesterol in your body.
However, having higher levels of HDL does help you prevent serious health conditions, such as heart attacks and strokes. But all the pieces of cholesterol play together, so a high good cholesterol doesn’t always mean that you’re safe from the bad forms.
How to increase your good cholesterol
Cholesterol as a whole needs to be monitored because of the negative effects it can have on your health. This includes routine blood work, especially if you’re at higher risk for elevated cholesterol levels.
So how do you go about lowering your bad cholesterol? There are actually a lot of lifestyle changes you can make that help to lower your cholesterol, including:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Lose excess weight
- Stop smoking
- Keep your blood pressure in check
Believe it or not, keeping your stress levels down also helps to keep your body healthy, including your cholesterol. However, in some cases, lifestyle modifications just aren’t enough. In this case, Dr. Shine may recommend medications along with a healthy lifestyle to combat high cholesterol.
Statins are the most widely prescribed type of cholesterol medication, because they combat high cholesterol right in your liver. Statins decrease the amount of cholesterol produced by your liver, which helps lower your overall levels.
Dr. Shine can also suggest certain foods, such as olive oil and legumes to help you boost your good cholesterol levels. This helps lower your risk of other complications from high cholesterol
If you’re concerned about your numbers when it comes to your cholesterol, book an appointment online or over the phone with Shine Health and Wellness today.