What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance. It is fatty lipid found in the body tissues and blood plasma of vertebrates (animals with bones); it is only sparingly soluble in water, but much more soluble in some organic solvents. The weak ability of cholesterol to dissolve in water is a major factor in the development of atherosclerosis, a condition associated with coronary artery disease.
Cholesterol is produced in the liver, the adrenal glands and reproductive organs. The liver produces about 80% of the cholesterol in your body.
Cholesterol is a natural and necessary component of your body cells and many hormones. In cell membranes, cholesterol keeps membranes fluid and functional. Cholesterol also forms the backbone of hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. Cholesterol is transported in the bloodstream as lipoproteins to their destinations. Cholesterol is not totally a bad thing.
Cholesterol becomes bad when high levels are present. High levels in the bloodstream are associated with hardening of the arteries, premature coronary heart disease and many other vascular disease problems.
Unhealthy blood cholesterol levels are one of the major risk factors for heart disease -- the No. 1 killer of American men and women. The good news is that blood cholesterol levels can be modified.
Normal cholesterol levels
Children and Cholesterol
About 1 in 500 people--about 145,000 kids younger than 18--has a form of inherited high cholesterol, called familial hyperlipidemia, that can send their cholesterol into the 300s and higher and raises their chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke in their teens and 20s. In addition, about 10% of kids, or almost 7 million youngsters, have total cholesterol over 190, which is considered high for a child. And there's been an explosion of kids with Type 2 diabetes, which used to strike primarily in adulthood, and an epidemic of obesity--all of which drive coronary artery disease.
Reduce Cholesterol Buildup
Spinach, broccoli and other dark green, leafy vegetables contain substantial amounts of a substance called lutein. High levels of lutein in the blood are associated with a reduced buildup of cholesterol.
Walnuts are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which lower levels of LDL cholesterol.
How to control Cholesterol?
- Eat fish, skinless poultry and lean meats. These foods offer protein but too much protein will give you more saturated fat (cholesterol) than you need.
- Eat fish at least twice a week. Fish is lower in fat than most meats. The fat contained in fish has come beneficial oils called omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to be heart and blood vessel protective.
- Reduce high-fat dairy products. High fat dairy products are sour cream, cream cheese, hard cheese, processed cheese, butter, whipped cream and whole milk. Some low-fat dairy products are: yogurt, cottage cheese, low-fat or non-fat milk.
- Hidden fat. Be aware of the hidden fat in your diet. Danish, pastries and cookies have large amounts of oil and fat. A muffin could add 4 or 5 teaspoons of fat to your diet.
- Reduce the amount of fat you use in your food. Steam vegetables instead of frying them. Also, try not to cover your vegetables with butter or margarine.
- Olive or canola oil. If you add fat to your food, try to use olive or canola oil. These oils are more healthy for you because they have a higher concentration of monounsaturated fats.
- Grains and Bread products. Choose a balanced diet with adequate carbohydrate foods at each meal and keep the fat intake low.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Vegetables and fruits contain very little fat. They are full of nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants.