Cholesterol is a fatty substance ingested via some of the foods we eat; cholesterol is found in animal products. It is also manufactured in the body. Cholesterol can be both a detriment and a benefit to overall health, depending on the levels of different types of cholesterol.
Cholesterol is broken down into two different types. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is often referred to as bad cholesterol, and HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is commonly referred to as good cholesterol. Triglycerides are another type of fat found in the blood that are also considered when measuring cholesterol.
Total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dl. LDL cholesterol should be less than 130 mg/dl, or less than 100 mg/dl if other heart disease risk factors are present. HDL cholesterol should be more than 60 mg/dl and triglycerides should be less than 150 mg/dl.
According to the Mayo Clinic, LDL cholesterol levels are the most important to monitor when concerned about heart disease risks. Excess LDL cholesterol can accumulate in the arteries and lead to hardening of the arteries and blockages.
The excess LDL cholesterol that accumulates inside the arterial walls can lead to heart attacks. HDL cholesterol counteracts LDL cholesterol and helps to prevent clogs. HDL cholesterol carries some excess LDL cholesterol to the liver, where it is where it is expelled from the body.
Cholesterol levels can be managed by eating a diet high in fibre and low in saturated fats. Also, regular exercise helps to control cholesterol levels. When diet and exercise fail, medications may be needed to control cholesterol levels.