All about Cholesterol

A. Cholesterol is a soft waxy, fat-like substance in a person's blood that originates from two major sources, dietary intake and liver production. Their daily job is to maintain cell walls, hormones and other tissues. The body uses cholesterol to produce many hormones, Vitamin-D, and the bile acids that help to digest fat. Dietary fat & oil are often targeted as the main dietary factors, which affects blood cholesterol. Fat serves many functions in the body, therefore, a fat free diet is not a healthy diet. However, the amount and type of fat in the diet is important in controlling cholesterol. As cholesterol piggy-back on proteins in the blood, they are named according to the type of carrier they associate with and can be classified as the good, the bad and the ugly.

A. Cholesterol made by the liver, essentially maintain cell walls and work as a double-edged sword. Good cholesterol or High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol keep the arteries clear by mopping up the junk deposited by its bad allies.

A. This is cholesterol known as Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), which are bad for the body. LDL deposits junk on the arterial walls. These cling to the walls of blood vesels and apart from damaging cell linings, gather other substances to form plaque, a hard, thick substance that narrows the arteries considerably.

A. This is the worst by-product obtained from foods like butter, vanaspati or ghee, called Triglyceride (TG). Less amount of TG helps give energy to the body, but excess TG causes great harm. It tends to get stored as body fat in the blood and assists LDL in its destructive ways. Indians are genetically inclined to high levels of LDL and TG.

A. High LDL is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. LDL deposits cholesterol on the artery walls, causing the formation of plaque. Over time, this causes thickening of the artery walls and narrowing of the arteries. When arteries supplying blood and oxygen to the heart muscles are narrowed, they are incapable of supplying enough blood and oxygen to the heart muscle during exertion. Lack of oxygen to the heart muscle causes chest pain. It also forms blood clot in the artery causing complete blockage of the artery, leading to death of heart muscle commonly referred to as heart attack. However, HDL prevents narrowing of arteries by extracting cholesterol from the artery walls and disposing them off through the liver. Thus, high levels of LDL and low levels of HDL are risk factors, while low levels of LDL and high level of HDL are desirable.