Managing Cholesterol

Type of Piece:          Informational Web Content

Audience:                 General Public

Written For:             Client of The Search Agency

You need fat to survive.  As strange as it sounds, as you read this, cholesterol is being circulated throughout your body to keep it working, being used to grow necessary tissues and produce chemicals indispensable to the body such as hormones, and Vitamin D.  This is true for both “good” and “bad” fats, though it is important to distinguish between the two.

To perform its essential functions in the body, cholesterol must travel through the bloodstream, and in order for that to happen, it must be encased in a package called a lipoprotein.  Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) make that travel possible and act as vehicles for cholesterol through the body.  Both are composed, partially, from the fat you eat.  HDL, known as “good fat” or “good cholesterol” is most important since it is responsible for carrying cholesterol away from tissues to the liver where it can be removed from the body.  Having too little HDL hinders your body’s ability to eliminate cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease.

LDL, or “bad fat,” on the other hand, while still necessary, can become problematic when allowed to rise to levels above 130 – 160 milligrams per deciliter in your bloodstream.  Because LDL is responsible for carrying cholesterol to your tissues, including your arteries, when levels rise too high, it can build up in the bloodstream and may even adhere to the artery walls as plaque.  This condition, known as atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, reduces the arteries’ flexibility and narrows the passage through which blood can flow delaying or even cutting off necessary oxygen and nutrients to the tissues.  Sometimes, pockets of plaque can even burst open releasing their fatty contents into the bloodstream which are then covered with blood cells, leading to blood clotting and even heart attack.

When plaque builds up in the coronary artery which feeds the heart, the condition is known as coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease.  To maintain healthy levels of “good” HDL and “bad” LDL fats, you must make smart diet choices.  Fats that can raise your LDL levels include saturated fat and trans fat, found in most animal fat.  You can usually spot these fats, which harden at room temperature, including shortening, butter and margarine.  Fats that support a healthy level of HDL can be found in many nuts such as walnuts and some vegetable oils such as olive and safflower and fish such as salmon and mackerel.

For an average adult, daily calories coming from fat should fall somewhere between 25% and 35% of their recommended caloric intake.  It’s also important to strive for the majority of the fat in your diet to come from unsaturated fats.  To reduce LDL levels in the blood, no more than 7% of daily calories should come from saturated fats with the additional 18% to 28% coming from unsaturated fat sources.  Diets deriving less than 20% of their calories from total fat can hinder the body’s ability to use some vitamins and other nutrients and can even lower HDL levels to the detriment of heart health.

With heart disease as the leading cause of death in men and women, learning about fat and cholesterol and the roles they play in a healthy body has never been more important.  The educated consumer has a running start making the best choices for a longer healthier life.


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