Current lifestyle and health risk factors for the young Indian population makes awareness about cholesterol vital for every individual today. An excess of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood are recognized as a risk factor for heart disease and stroke and artherosclerotic vascular disease.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, yellowish substance produced by the liver. It is technically not a fat. It is a normal and necessary part of most body tissues, including cell membranes, the brain, nervous system, liver and the blood. Cholesterol does not dissolve in blood and hence needs to be transported through the blood stream by means of a carrier called “Lipoproteins”
What is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol?
There are two major types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol in the blood:
High-density lipoprotein (HDL)
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
HDL works to rid the body of excess cholesterol, thereby reducing the amount of cholesterol that is deposited on the blood-vessel walls, it is sometimes called “good cholesterol”.
LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to other body tissues, depositing excess cholesterol on the walls of arteries, thus clogging the arteries- a condition called artherosclerosis – and leads to the development of heart disease and stroke. Hence LDL is termed as “bad cholesterol”.
What is acceptable cholesterol level?
For a long time it was considered that a total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL was safe and desirable. However with new research findings, the threshold levels are getting redefined. For instance, currently LDL cholesterol at <100 is considered desirable. This is a significant reduction compared to earlier acceptable levels of 120-130. Similarly HDL levels >60 are considered ideal. HDL < 35mg/dL, is cause enough for alarm. Apart from the individual values, one also needs to look at the ratio of HDL (good cholesterol) to LDL (bad cholesterol). This is more important in determining a person’s risk for heart disease and stroke.