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What You Need to Know: Cholesterol

Posted on April 26, 2017 at 9:02 AM by Lia Bahls, RD


Before we get into whether you should or shouldn’t, let’s review what cholesterol actually is.


Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all cells and in the blood stream of the human body. Cholesterol is necessary for human function. The liver makes its own supply to fulfill these needs. Cholesterol is important for some hormones and cell membrane production, however, too much cholesterol in the blood increases risk for heart disease and stroke.


There are two types of cholesterol: LDL and HDL


Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is also known as “bad” cholesterol. High levels of LDL lead to plaque buildup in the arteries, which are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. This plaque builds up over time and hardens, causing your arteries to narrow. This condition is called atherosclerosis and can lead to other heart conditions including heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.


High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is referred to as “good” cholesterol.  It brings the cholesterol that has been deposited in different parts of the body back to the liver where it is removed.


During cholesterol screenings you will have two numbers, one for LDL and one for HDL. You want your LDL to be under 100 mg/dL. For HDL you want higher than 40 mg/dL – and the higher it is, the healthier it is. 


Higher LDL cholesterol in your blood increases risk of heart disease while higher HDL cholesterol in the blood decreases risk of heart disease.


Cholesterol in the blood is impacted by age, family history, diet and exercise.


So let’s talk food and cholesterol.


Many animal food sources are high in cholesterol but have not been shown to increase heart disease and stroke risk. These foods include eggs (yes, you can eat the whole egg), cheese (in moderation of course), and shrimp.


There are foods that have been shown to increase cholesterol in the blood and these include fried foods, trans fats (look for partially hydrogenated oils on the nutrition label), and sugar (this is why we are always urging you to watch your carbohydrate intake).


So how do you ensure you’re getting in good cholesterol? Follow your dietitian’s plan and choose lean proteins, veggies and fruit. It’s okay to have a little fat on your meat, just make sure to avoid processed items.


For more information on cholesterol and following a healthy diet, contact Iowa Weight Loss Specialists at 515-327-2000.

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