What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol plays an important role in forming cells, hormones, and other necessary tissues. Although cholesterol is made by the liver in the human body, it is also found in animal fats in meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. All foods that contain saturated and trans fats can raise blood cholesterol levels. High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart and blood vessel disease like Heart attacks and strokes.
When cholesterol levels are too high, some cholesterol gets deposited on the walls of the blood vessels. Over time, these deposits can build up and become hard lumps called plaque. This can cause the blood vessels to narrow, harden and decrease blood flow, possibly leading to other serious health risks including hypertension, problems with blood clotting, heart attack or stroke.
There are two main types of cholesterol. Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is known as the “bad cholesterol” and it can clog the arteries. High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is the “good cholesterol” which transports some cholesterol back to the liver to be broken down. It is recommended to have lower LDL levels and higher HDL levels.
Triglycerides are another type of blood fat that acts as temporary storage units of fat. High triglyceride levels can also contribute to plaque formation in the arteries.
Diabetes and Cholesterol Connection
People with diabetes have higher rates of cholesterol abnormalities than the rest of the population and this contributes to the higher rates of heart disease in people with diabetes. Diabetes tends to lower "good" cholesterol and raise triglyceride and "bad" cholesterol levels, which increases the risk for heart disease and stroke.
Cholesterol management aimed at lowering LDL cholesterol, raising HDL cholesterol and lowering triglycerides has been shown to reduce diseases of the major blood vessels and mortality rates in those with diabetes.
Steps you can take to lower your blood cholesterol or keep it low:
- Follow a low saturated fat, low-cholesterol diet.
- Be more physically active.
- Lose weight if you are overweight.