Cholesterol is a waxy steroid metabolite that is useful in the body and could also be considered essential to human metabolism. 

Cholesterol can be found as a transportation molecule within the body, within certain cell walls or “membranes”,  and it is essential in the synthesis of hormones and other necessary acids and vitamins within the body. 

The production or synthesis of cholesterol occurs in the body.  A large amount of cholesterol is produced within the liver.  Other sites for production include:  intestines, adrenal gland, and some reproductive organs. 

However, cholesterol can also be added to the body through dietary means especially by animal products.  Animal fats are typical places to find cholesterol.  Plants and vegetables do not contain cholesterol unless it has been added through cooking process or other means. 

Sources of Cholesterol include:

   -  Cheese
   -  Beef
   -  Chicken
   -  Eggs
   -  Pork
   -  Shrimp

Another few players in cholesterol are Trans Fat and Saturated Fat

Saturated Fats can be seen in chocolate, some oils, animal fats, and some dairy products

Trans Fats can be seen in baked goods, fast food, snack foods, fried foods, margarine, and hydrogenated vegetable oil.    Trans fats are produced by partially hydrogenating unsaturated fats.  These are not found largely in nature.  It has been recommended to limit or eliminate trans fats to improve your health.

The health concerns of elevated cholesterol are intense and severe:

Hypercholesterolemia

Is when a high amount of circulating cholesterol can be found in the blood

It is not specifically a disease but may result from other issues such as diet, family genes, diabetes or thyroid problems.

Cholesterol can always be found in the blood – but when levels becomes quite elevated then the concern arises.

Elevated cholesterol can lead to serious medical concerns such as:  Atherosclerosis, Coronary Artery Disease, Worsening High Blood Pressure , Stroke, Peripheral Vascular Disease, Angina, and others

Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a response or result of damage to arterial blood vessels.

Is the result of hardening in the arteries and is typically caused by a build up of fatty molecules such as cholesterol.

It is more specific then the general term of arteriosclerosis.

Coronary Artery Disease

Plaque fills the inner pipes of arteries that supply oxygen to the heart.

Smoking is the #1 preventable risk factor but so is elevated cholesterol

Coronary arteries supply the muscle of the heart with oxygen.

Plaque can fill or line the arteries of the heart

Rupture or tearing of the arteries can occur causing serious consequences.

Prevention and Exercise

Prevention is necessary for several reasons. Diabetes and Hypertension are serious diseases that can be made much worse with elevated cholesterol.  Diet and exercise are central to a good health in both improving cholesterol and additional symptoms associated with this disease. 

As in many other areas, preventing cholesterol build up before it changes your life can be difficult but critical.  HDL can be considered “the good cholesterol” and acts as a buffer to prevent a build up of unwanted cholesterol.  HDL is a lipoprotein that can be improved through exercise.   Other ways to improve HDL is stopping smoking, improving diet, weight loss, fish oil, flax seed and others.

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