In this article I'd like to talk about HDL Cholesterol, better know as good cholesterol, and explain what it is, which diseases it prevents and why it is important to increase it.
HDL Cholesterol and LDL Cholesterol
We can point out that cholesterol, in reality, even though it is composed of two types, is always only one, but it does not behave the same way.Good cholesterol has a benign function. We can imagine this type of cholesterol as if it was a scavenger of the arteries. It basically gathers excess cholesterol returning it to the liver which, in turn, will be revised and eventually turned into bile.
In fact, it all depends on what makes it circulate in the blood. In other words, the difference between HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol is in the proteins that transport it.
By definition, remember that:
- HDL cholesterol: cholesterol is removed from arteries, to prevent the formation of crusts or atherosclerotic plaques. This is a very positive behavior
- LDL cholesterol: cholesterol is deposited in abundance on the arteries wall, contributing to the formation of blockages and then to serious cardiovascular problems. This action is classified as negative
We often hear that cholesterol is strictly linked to cardiovascular diseases (strokes, heart attacks), and therefore we associate cholesterol to something bad for our body.
Instead, cholesterol has a really important role in our body, a vital role.
Why Cholesterol is Important in Our Body
I usually don't like to enter too much in details when I talk about chemistry and stuff like that, because I know that it means nothing to most people. Kind of like when they try to explain me about finances...
So let me cut the confusing part, but allow me to say at least this: a good portion of cholesterol is converted into cholic acid, and after mixing with other substances it forms the bile salts, which are essential for digestion and absorption of fats.
This is used by major glands like testes and ovaries, for the production of fundamental hormones such as, progesterone, adrenocortical, androgens and estrogens.
In addition it:
- Contrast the loss of moisture from the epidermal layers of the skin
- Is a crucial for the production of bile. This yellow/green-ish liquid accumulates in the gallbladder, and has an important role in the assimilation of fatty foods
- Is needed for our body to produce vitamin D, important for bone mineralization and to maintain the integrity of the nervous system cells
- Promotes the isolation of nerve fibers, and for our arteries is a kind of waterproofing agent that acts in the inner lining
It is very important for human life, and is produced for about 2/3 directly by the liver, while 1/3 is extracted directly from the foods that we eat, and then delivered by the cells through the blood, and from the intestine to the liver.
It is mainly used to regenerate the membranes of the cells in our body.
An adult produces between one and two grams per day.
All the problems attributed to cholesterol often result from an unhealthy diet and the exaggerated consumption of foods rich in saturated fats.
So Why Are We Told That Cholesterol is Bad?
About two-thirds of cholesterol in the blood is LDL cholesterol, commonly called bad cholesterol, very harmful to our health and to the heart.
It's primary task is to group cholesterol and carry it in the body, until it gets to the cells via receptors that grasp it and absorb it.
During this phase, it sticks to the arteries walls and causes, unfortunately, arteriosclerosis by forming plaques that restrict blood circulation.
This takes place in the presence of excess cholesterol in the liver, due to the increase of deposits in the arteries, causing hardening and loss of elasticity.
This condition can reveal itself with a sudden and severe chest pain, called angina pectoris, or with the formation of a blood clot, called thrombosis, and can even cause both heart attacks and strokes.
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