Do we know enough about him?
If there is a good time to talk about cholesterol, it is inevitably the days before Easter! As we all know, after the end of fasting, the tradition dictates that there should be eggs, kozunak and of course something local… a kind of cholesterol bomb!
Precisely for this reason, we at City Lab decided to use the occasion and introduce you to cholesterol – what it is, what is its function, what are the consequences of its going beyond the norm and how to protect ourselves from all this.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that can be found in all cells of the body. It is vitally important as it serves as a starting product for the synthesis of steroid hormones: male (testosterone) and female (estrogens, progesterone) sex hormones, glucocorticoids (cortisol), mineralocorticoids (aldosterone).
It is necessary for the synthesis of vitamin D, and also has an important role in the exchange of fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E and K. It supports the proper functioning of serotonin receptors.
Our bodies make almost all the cholesterol we need. However, we also take in cholesterol through food, which can create a problem.
Good and “bad” cholesterol
Cholesterol is a structural component of cell membranes in the animal organism, essential for maintaining cell membrane integrity and structure. It allows animal cells to protect their cellular integrity and viability, allowing cells to rapidly change shape, enabling animals to move, unlike protozoa and bacteria, which are limited by the presence of cell walls.
Cholesterol is insoluble and requires a carrier to be transported into and out of cells. For this purpose, cholesterol binds to carrier proteins, forming lipoprotein complexes. These “transport packages” consist of fats (lipids) in their inner part and proteins in their outer part.
The lipoproteins that carry cholesterol around the body are of two main types – low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Maintaining healthy levels and a good ratio of both types of lipoproteins is extremely important.
The main function of LDL lipoprotein, also called “bad” cholesterol, is to transport cholesterol to tissues in the body that need it to produce hormones as well as to maintain the integrity of their cell membranes.
For this reason, it contains much more cholesterol than any other protein. After the cholesterol is carried around the body, the rest of the LDL must go to the bile. However, high levels of bad cholesterol can lead to cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels.
The main function of HDL, also called “good” cholesterol, is to collect excess cholesterol and return it to the liver, which then removes it from the body.
The two types of lipoprotein complexes have opposite effects, and therefore it is important to consider their amounts as a ratio. In other words, the higher the LDL and the lower the HDL, the greater the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.
The other lipoprotein that is tracked is VLDL-cholesterol. It has a very low density and plays a major role in the distribution of triglycerides synthesized in the liver. A high level of the indicator increases the patient’s risk of atherosclerosis, damage to the cardiovascular system, etc.
What is high blood cholesterol?
High cholesterol has no symptoms, so many people are unaware that their blood cholesterol levels are too high. High blood cholesterol levels lead to a higher likelihood of developing coronary heart disease. This is a condition where plaque builds up in the coronary (heart) arteries. This plaque consists of cholesterol, fat, calcium and other substances. When plaque builds up in the arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis is reached. Over time, the plaque hardens and narrows the arteries. This restricts the flow of oxygen-rich blood and can lead to a myocardial infarction or stroke.
Lowering cholesterol can slow, reduce, and even stop the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
High cholesterol levels are caused by a number of factors, including heredity, diet and lifestyle, as well as, although less often, diseases affecting the liver, thyroid gland or kidneys.
Excessive consumption of saturated fatty acids, trans-fats and cholesterol leads to an increase in the level of total and “bad” cholesterol. Saturated fatty acids and cholesterol are mainly found in animal products (meat, whole milk, cheese, butter, egg yolk), and trans-fats, or so-called partially hydrogenated fats in fried foods, margarine, salads, chips, crackers, biscuits, etc.
Cholesterol measurement should be done at least once every 5 years for everyone over the age of 20. It is carried out by taking a blood sample after a minimum of 9-12 hours of fasting. Total cholesterol level is the sum of “good” HDL, “bad” LDL and VLDL cholesterol. It is recommended that its determination is not carried out independently, but within the framework of the lipid panel, also called a fat or lipid profile. The latter includes, in addition to measuring total cholesterol, also “good” HDL cholesterol, “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. According to the values of the individual indicators and their ratios, three categories are formed: desirable, borderline and high-risk values for cardiovascular diseases.
How to protect yourself and reduce cholesterol levels?
There are a large number of factors affecting cholesterol levels, including diet, age, weight, gender, genetics, disease and lifestyle.
Cholesterol levels can be regulated in a number of ways, mostly lifestyle-related, the easiest of which is through dietary changes. Saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids are the main cause of high blood cholesterol levels. Food from animal sources – egg yolks, red meat, chicken products, seafood and full-fat dairy products – contain large amounts of cholesterol. On the other hand, food of plant origin (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds) does not contain any cholesterol.
For this reason, a healthy diet can reduce and even eliminate some of the risk factors, such as helping to reduce the level of bad cholesterol and reducing arterial blood pressure and body weight.
Another way to regulate levels is of course medication.
Cholesterol is an important part of our body, but to remain our “friend” it must be maintained within healthy limits.
So we recommend you to be careful with the festive table and not to forget the fruits and vegetables in your menu!
At City Lab you can check your total cholesterol level, as well as your HDL, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels (Cholesterol Tests).