Cholesterol is not a fat. Biochemically it's called a "sterol." It contains no calories, so the body cannot derive any energy from it. Cholesterol forms an integral part of the cell membranes throughout your body, sort of like the mortar that holds the brick wall together.
It is particularly important in the cellular structure of the brain and central nervous system, and is an important component of the myelin sheath that provides insulation to the nerves. The body uses cholesterol to make bile acids, which are necessary for proper food digestion. It's also a vital part of adrenal and sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone), and it helps the body manufacture vitamin D.
Types Of Cholesterol There are 2 basic types of cholesterol: Low-density lipoprotein (or LDL) cholesterol is a bad type of cholesterol that is most likely to clog blood vessels, increasing your risk for heart disease. A diet high in saturated fat is a major dietary cause of raised LDL cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein (or HDL) cholesterol is a good type of cholesterol. HDL cholesterol helps clear the LDL cholesterol out of the blood and reduces your risk for heart disease. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables, with appropriate levels of omega-3/fish oil can help raise HDL cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol and Diet Eating too much saturated dietary fat (the kind found in high-fat meats and dairy products) and cholesterol can cause your body to make more cholesterol, raising your blood cholesterol levels. You can lower your cholesterol level by switching to a lower-fat diet thus reducing intake of animal fat and other fats and eating foods rich in starch and fiber, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Cholesterol and Exercise Regular exercise not only reduces total blood cholesterol, but it lowers the bad kind of cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) while raising the good kind of cholesterol (HDL cholesterol). With improved diet, exercise helps to reduce weight/obesity, another cholesterol-risk factor.
WAYS TO CONTROL YOUR CHOLESTEROL With every one percent reduction of total blood cholesterol, there is about a two percent reduction in the risk of heart attack. Getting your total cholesterol down and your HDL, or good cholesterol, up is good medicine. Here's what you can do to control your cholesterol. 1. Eat less fat. Keep your total daily fat intake below 20 percent of your daily calories. If you average 2,250 calories a day, eat no more than 450 calories from fat, or 50 grams of fat (there are 9 calories per gram of fat). 2. Exercise. Aerobic exercise (the kind that gets your heart rate up) raises the level of HDL cholesterol and may also reduce the level of LDL. In fact, since there is no such thing as eating foods high in HDL cholesterol, the only two ways you can raise HDL cholesterol is by exercising and reducing your body fat. Exercise is one of the few cholesterol-lowering activities that accomplish all three goals: lowering total cholesterol, raising HDLs, and lowering LDLs. Exercise stimulates the body to manufacture more HDL. The cholesterol level of athletes is much lower than that of sedentary individuals. 3. Relax. Stress releases stress hormones, such as adrenaline, which can elevate blood cholesterol levels. A daily relaxation program, such as meditation, deep-breathings or mental imagery can lower blood cholesterol. 4. Graze. Grazing on many mini meals throughout the day rather than eating three big meals can lower cholesterol. In studies comparing frequent snackers to three-meal-a-day eaters, the grazers had lower cholesterol. 5. Don't smoke. Smoking makes everything that's bad for the heart worse. 6. 10. Raise low cholesterol kids. Children who grow up with a plant and seafood-based diet rather than one high in animal-based foods are more likely to grow up with healthier hearts.
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