What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance — also known as a lipid — that is found in body tissues and blood that makes up an important part of the outer lining of cells. Cholesterol is the main precursor in the synthesis of many crucial hormones including vitamin D3 (the sunlight hormone); the steroid hormones cortisol, cortisone, and aldosterone in the adrenal glands; and the sex hormones progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone.
Without cholesterol, we cannot live. It is crucial for hormone production and normal cell function. So, contrary to what you may have been told, cholesterol is not bad! Cholesterol is actually good and essential.
The dark-side of cholesterol
When the body is under assault (from chronic exposure to fungi like Candida, bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, and environmental contaminants), blood vessels may become damaged. Cholesterol helps repair arterial damage by sealing up the damage. When the body is chronically inflamed, cholesterol can build up excessively, leading to conditions such as atherosclerosis. Excess cholesterol forms plaque along the artery walls. The arteries then become so narrow that blood can’t get through. Reduced blood circulation then leads to trouble such as heart attack and stroke.
Normally, the body does a good job of balancing cholesterol. Cholesterol is constantly recycled and replenished by the liver and gallbladder. The liver recycles and replenishes cholesterol, while the gallbladder acts like a storage unit. When the body needs more cholesterol, the gallbladder is triggered to release its store.
What’s the difference between LDL and HDL cholesterol?
The only way that cholesterol can flow through the body is by binding to proteins that carry it back and forth between the liver, gallbladder, and body cells. These are called high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). Think of them as taxis for cholesterol. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are considered good because they carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver so it can be recycled.
On the other hand, low-density lipoproteins (LDL) carry cholesterol away from the liver out to the cells that need cholesterol. Because low-density lipoproteins transport cholesterol to the arteries, an excess amount of LDL can mean an over-accumulation of cholesterol in the arteries. That’s why high LDL cholesterol is considered bad for your heart.
So what does that mean?
The goal of managing cholesterol is to essentially balance the traffic flow of cholesterol. By increasing your good HDL cholesterol and lowering your bad LDL cholesterol, you’re creating a smooth, steady flow of cholesterol for your body’s cells. When you hear all the talk about lowering total cholesterol, you’re getting a vague, ambiguous message. That’s because total cholesterol measures both HDL and LDL as one number.
However, your total cholesterol number is only a small part of the picture and one that can be misleading. For example, if your good HDL level is high, and your bad LDL is low, your total cholesterol reading MAY still be high. But you’re actually in good shape, because your HDL and LDL are where they should be.
On the other hand, if your good HDL is very low, and your bad LDL is high, your total cholesterol reading MAY be low. But you’re NOT in good shape, because you have too much LDL cholesterol floating around throughout your body. In this case, the risk of heart disease increases because cholesterol is going to build up in places where they shouldn’t, like your gallbladder and your blood vessels. The important measure of cholesterol is your HDL/LDL ratio. The key is to raise good HDL levels and lower bad LDL levels.
Additional Information about Cholesterol Imbalance
- Common symptoms of cholesterol imbalance
- Common causes of cholesterol imbalance
- Natural and alternative treatments for cholesterol imbalance
- Dietary and lifestyle recommendations that may help in the treatment of cholesterol imbalance
- Conventional or prescription medications used in the treatment of cholesterol imbalance
- Additional Reading for cholesterol imbalance