Maintaining good cholesterol levels is important, but, contrary to popular belief, cholesterol is not a villain. Your body needs cholesterol to synthesize certain nutrients and hormones, construct the semi-permeable membranes around each of the 100 trillion cells that make up your body, and facilitate cell communication and memory in the brain.
Cholesterol moves through the body with the help of two proteins: LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, and HDL, or high-density lipoprotein. LDL carries ready-to-use cholesterol molecules that can be absorbed by cells that need it, and HDL picks up excess cholesterol and carries it back to the liver for recycling and excretion.
Healthy LDL cholesterol levels are always of great concern, as they should be, but few people know that it’s impossible for your cells to absorb too much of it. LDL becomes unsafe only when it interacts with molecular fragments called free radicals. The effect of such interaction is that the LDL becomes oxidized. Unlike normal LDL, oxidized LDL has toxic effects on the cells it attaches to.
When you get down to it, though, the real problem is not cholesterol—it’s whether your body’s antioxidant system can effectively neutralize the free radicals that damage LDL molecules.
Here’s what you need to remember about cholesterol: It’s a relative heart risk factor and it’s influenced by other factors. You should also keep in mind that good cardiovascular nutrition and a cholesterol lowering diet can go a long way to helping you keep good cholesterol levels.
For more information on cholesterol guidelines, reducing hypertension, and overall heart health, visit www.drsinatra.com. While there, sign up for FREE e-letters or subscribe to Dr. Sinatra’s monthly newsletter, Heart, Health & Nutrition.