All About Cholesterol

What comes to mind when you hear the word cholesterol? If you immediately associate this waxy substance with something negative, you're far from alone. But the truth is that cholesterol in itself isn't bad. Among other things, it helps your body produce hormones, bile acid and vitamin D. Although your body makes all the cholesterol you need, you also consume cholesterol in animal-based foods, such as meat, seafood and dairy products.

Cholesterol is carried through your bloodstream in particles called lipoproteins. There are two kinds of cholesterol: high-density cholesterol (HDL) and low-density cholesterol (LDL). HDL cholesterol is often referred to as “good” cholesterol. LDL is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol.

Generally speaking, if you keep your HDL levels high and your LDL levels low, the less likely you are to develop heart disease. To keep your heart-disease risk low, your HDL should be above 50 if you’re a woman and above 40 if you’re a man. Your LDL should be below 100, and your total cholesterol should be no higher than 200.

Another key number in your lipid count is triglycerides, sometimes called “trigs.” Trigs give you energy, but those that aren’t used for energy remain in the blood. When that happens, trig levels rise and can contribute to hardening of the arteries. Your triglyceride level should be under 150.

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