If you ever had blood work done at the request of your doctor it’s likely that your cholesterol levels were on the list of items being tested. Having cholesterol levels checked regularly is often part of routine check-up and screening guidelines because high cholesterol levels are considered a risk factor for developing cardiovascular-related health issues, such as heart disease and stroke.

So, what exactly is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a fat-based molecule that is made by the body and used for a variety of crucial functions. Although it has been given a bad rap, cholesterol does benefit the human body and without it many human processes would not function.

Benefits of cholesterol:

  • Makes up a portion of human cell membranes
  • Is required to manufacture important hormones such as cortisol, testosterone and estrogen
  • Used to make bile, a specific type of fluid that helps digest fats from the diet
  • Insulates nerve cells
  • Is used to help manufacture Vitamin D in the body

Cholesterol is made in the liver. Typically the body makes adequate and healthy amounts to assist in the functions listed above. However, you can also get cholesterol from food, such as meats, cheese, eggs, baked goods and fried foods. Excess consumption of these foods can eventually lead to higher than normal amounts of cholesterol in the blood stream and negatively impact cardiovascular health.

Excessive amounts of cholesterol circulating within blood vessels can combine with other substances and adhere to the inner surface of the blood vessel, this is known as plaque formation. Plaque deposits can result in narrowing of the blood vessel disrupting the flow of blood to important organs such as the brain, lungs or heart. Unfortunately, a diet high in saturated fats and processed foods can contribute to plaque build-up and increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Making healthier choices such as avoiding or limiting fried foods, baked goods, heavily processed foods and instead opting for fresh whole foods can reduce excessive cholesterol intake the from diet. Moreover, the liver’s production of cholesterol would be sufficient for all the benefits cholesterol has to offer to the human body without the negative cardiovascular risks.

Tips to improve cholesterol levels:

  • Reduce foods high in saturated fats
  • Avoid trans fats
  • Increase consumption of fibre
  • Reduce alcohol consumption
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Consume healthy fats such as Omega-3’s
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