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The CalorieKing Cholesterol Guide

Cholesterol. It's in eggs. It's in meat. It's in your bloodstream right now. Should you be concerned or is all the fuss about nothing?

Well, if your plan is to be healthy, strong and independent, even in your latter years, it's wise to understand how your cholesterol level affects your health.

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What is cholesterol?

The word "cholesterol" can refer to two different things:

  • Dietary cholesterol, which is the cholesterol contained in food.

  • Blood cholesterol, which is referred to when you talk about "cholesterol levels" in your body. Blood cholesterol is a natural fat produced by your liver and found throughout your body. It is a soft, white, waxy substance.

Though often thought of in negative terms, cholesterol is very important to your overall health. For example, cholesterol is used to maintain healthy cell walls, and to make hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids.

The problem with cholesterol

The problem with cholesterol is that your liver already makes around 1000 mg of it per day, which is almost all your body needs to maintain these vital functions. So, due to a combination of dietary, lifestyle and genetic factors, many Australians have an excess blood-cholesterol level.

A high blood-cholesterol level increases the risk of atherosclerosis - the thickening of arteries that can reduce or block blood flow to the heart, brain, eyes, kidneys, sex organs and other body parts. This in turn increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, impotence and other blood circulatory problems.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, there are two different types of blood cholesterol:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol are the main way that cholesterol contributes to atherosclerosis.

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL), also called “good” cholesterol. High levels of HDL have a protective effect against heart disease by helping to reduce atherosclerosis.

Triglyceride is another form of fat that is made by the body. Its levels can fluctuate according to dietary fat intake and under some conditions excess levels may contribute to atherosclerosis. Excessive triglyceride levels can also lead to pancreatitis - inflammation of the pancreas, which is very serious.

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