What is the role of cholesterol in the body – We’ve all heard how having high cholesterol can literally kill you, or at least lead to an early death.
Cholesterol has often been lambasted by the health community and the general public as the reason behind America’s leading cause of death, heart disease.
The story of cholesterol has recently begun to reveal some interesting layers. Layers that have now given evidence to a more complex situation than previously accepted. In order to get to the heart of that, we need to figure out what cholesterol actually is first.
Cholesterol is a type of lipid (fat) that floats around in our blood and cells and has different functions depending on its configuration. Until recently, we thought that cholesterol came in one form, and that form was bad for health and what is the role of cholesterol in the body.
We now know that there are two main forms of cholesterol active in our bodies and actually work against each other. One is called LDL cholesterol and is responsible for the negative effects associated with cholesterol. The other is HDL and has been shown to have a net positive effect on our health.
LDL is short for low-density lipoprotein. This form of cholesterol is considered “bad” from a health perspective.
That’s because it accumulates in the blood vessels leading to build-ups in plaque that cause blockages in blood flow. These blockages obviously aren’t good for you and can lead to a myriad of complications ranging from high blood pressure to stroke.
HDL is short for high-density lipoprotein. It is the type of cholesterol that has made recent waves, being dubbed “good cholesterol”
In many ways, it directly counteracts the activity of LDL but also provides some unique benefits such as its role in hormone synthesis.
One of the key benefits of having a healthy cholesterol balance (i.e. more good than bad cholesterol) is that bad cholesterol or any excess amounts of cholesterol are removed from the arteries by HDL and transported to the liver.
This removal is essential for the maintenance of healthy circulation, preventing conditions such as atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the blood vessels due to plaque build-up. This narrowing effect puts the body in danger of many potentially life-threatening conditions.
One of the aforementioned life-threatening conditions, what is the role of cholesterol in the body. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America.
When arterial plaque causes blockages in the vessels supplying the heart especially, that can lead to massive tissue death known as myocardial infarction (death of heart muscle). This leads to a heart attack.
In general, your circulation comes under severe strain due to the build-up of LDL and the associated plaque. Hypertension (chronic high blood pressure) will ensue as the volume within your blood vessels decreases.
HDL also stimulates the responsive release of nitric oxide, a chemical essential to a healthy cardiovascular system. Nitric oxide stimulates the dilation of the blood vessels, helping increase blood flow and reduce the risk of hypertension.
The same is true for stroke. When LDL cholesterol causes plaque accumulation in the blood vessels supplying the brain, this can lead to a stroke.
We all know having a stroke is pretty dangerous, but to put it in perspective, a stroke is a situation where part of the brain is killed due to a lack of blood supply. This can result in partial paralysis all the way to death. HDL cholesterol helps shunt excess LDL away from brain blood vessels, reducing the risk of stroke.
HDL cholesterol is a major component in hormone production. Hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, and cortisol, necessary for healthy internal system function rely on an ample supply of good cholesterol.
Healthy cholesterol levels usually correlate with healthy hormone levels.
Your digestive system relies on a complex cocktail of liquids which all play a role in the multiple phases of digestion. One of these liquids is called bile and is produced in the liver.
Bile is essential in the digestion of fats and is made in part by, you guessed it, cholesterol. Because of this, not only is cholesterol beneficial, it is actually essential. With that goes all the myths about how unhealthy cholesterol is because not having it is what’s really unhealthy.
So there it is folks, the truth about cholesterol and a slightly deeper look at how it really works and what is the role of cholesterol in the body. In order to keep your cholesterol balance healthy, you need to make the appropriate lifestyle adjustments.
Just to be sure, we advise you to consult a doctor before deciding what your cholesterol situation is. If you have any questions about cholesterol you feel we didn’t answer here, please don’t hesitate to hit us up in the comments section below
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