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Dr. Stone, editor of the HealthynFit Newsletter is a Certified Online Therapist, licensed as Professional Counselor, and Marriage and Family Therapist, with over 15 years of experience. If you would like to find out more about her practice or on-line therapy click here .
Cholesterol is a fatlike, waxy substance which is found in the tissues of all animals and humans. Therefore, foods from animal sources such as fish, foul, meat, and dairy products contain cholesterol. Foods that come from plants do not contain cholesterol. So if you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, you are not eating those food which contain cholesterol. However, if you are eating foods from animal origin, etc., you are eating foods with cholesterol. There are three kinds of fats:
1) Saturated fats. Saturated fats are those which are solid at room temperature such as the fat seen in meat. Saturated fats are the chief cause of raising the cholesterol levels therefore increasing the risk of heart disease. Excepting for palm and coconut oils, saturated fats come from animals. Red meat, butter and cheese are familiar forms. Hydrogenated fats are those fats converted from liquid oils to a semisolid form, such as margarine and shortening. Eating a lot of hydrogenated and trans fats raise the total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
2) Polyunsaturated fats (also called polyunsaturated fatty acids)and oils are those which are liquid at room temperature and remain in liquid form even if refrigerated. Examples are soybean, safflower, sunflower, corn and walnut oils. Another form of these oils, omega-3 fatty acids, comes from cold water fish such as sardines, mackerel and tuna. Several studies show that these oils may prevent heart disease by lowering triglyceride levels and reducing blood pressure.
3) Monosaturated fats, the good-for-you kind, are liquid at room temperature but begin to solidify when refrigerated. Examples of these fats are canola, olive, peanut, and cashew oils, as well as olive, peanuts and cashews themselves.
Cholesterol is actually essential for good health; it is vital to the function and structure of your cells and formation of certain body chemicals called hormones. So, we all have cholesterol and need cholesterol to live. It's when we have eat too much cholesterol that things become of concern.
ARE ANIMAL SOURCES THE ONLY PLACE CHOLESTEROL COMES FROM?
No. A portion of the cholesterol found in your blood actually is produced by the organ in the right upper portion of the belly called the liver. Some of the cholesterol goes into the formation of certain chemicals called bile acids which are necessary to digest food. The portion of the blood cholesterol produced by the liver is one of the reasons that a person's cholesterol remain high even though they comply with healthy lifestyles and dietary changes as the liver cholesterol production is partially related to hereditary predispositions.
IS CHOLESTEROL THE ONLY FAT IN THE BLOOD?
No. There are other fats in the blood. All fats are called lipids. They are connected to other chemical structures in the blood called proteins; they are therefore called "lipoproteins". LDL, or Low Density Lipids, are 25% protein and 45% cholesterol; HDL, or High Density Lipids, are 50% protein and 20% cholesterol. VLDL, or Very Low Density Lipids, are triglycerides mostly and a small amount of protein and cholesterol. Any elevation of the blood fat is called "hyper(high)lipidemia", or "hyperlipoproteinemia". A disorder of the blood fat also can be called "dyslipidemia". The other fat that is of primary concern beside cholesterol is called "triglcerides". The calories from food not used immediately are converted to triglycerides and transported to fat cells to be stored. High triglyceride levels have also been linked to heart disease.
WHY IS THERE SO MUCH FUSS OVER HAVING HIGH CHOLESTEROL?
Although we all need to have cholesterol for the reasons stated, too much cholesterol is not good at all. About one-half of all Americans have a higher blood level of cholesterol than is desired. Having too much cholesterol in the blood is called hypercholesterolemia and can signify the early presence of heart disease. Since heart disease is largely preventable, strong emphasis is given to proper dietary habits and eating properly, i.e., lower fat intake. The high cholesterol level in the blood causes plaque deposits in the arteries. In the picture to the right, the orangy-yellow looking mounds inside the artery are the fatty plaques. As the plaque buildup increases, the arteries narrow and less blood can travel through the artery to reach the target organ the artery supplies. Once the artery is blocked completely a heart attack or stroke occurs.
WHAT'S A RISK FACTOR?
A risk factor is a statistical fact that increases the probability of an occurence given certain situations. With specific reference to cholesterol and it's relationship to coronary heart disease (CHD), the risk factor for having high cholesterol just by itself producing heart disease is significant. Elevated cholesterol levels, total and LDL-C, with even one other risk factor increases the threat of CHD. The more risk factors you have, the greater the chance of you having CHD. It is important to recognize your risk factors to eliminate them and increase your chances of survival. CHD is preventable in most cases.
TREATMENT AND PREVENTION OF ELEVATED LIPIDS AND RISK FACTORS RELATED TO CORONARY HEART DISEASE
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