Cholesterol is a lipidic, waxy alcohol found in cell membranes. It is required to build and maintain cell membranes.
Cholesterol is found more abundant in densely packed membranes such as liver, spinal cord and brain. Cholesterol does not dissolve in blood. It is transported to and from cells by lipoproteins. Cholesterol consists of HDL, LDL, triglycerides and Lp (a) cholesterol. Low density lipoprotein (LDL) is known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol and high density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as ‘good’ cholesterol.
If too much LDL cholesterol is found circulating in the blood, it can build in the inner walls of the arteries. It forms a thick, hard deposit known as plaque along with other substances. This causes the arteries to become narrow and rigid. This narrowing of the artery restricts smooth flow of blood. If a clot forms and blocks the narrowed artery, it will results in heart attack.
HDL cholesterol on the other hand has a different role. It carries cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the lever. It is also known to remove excess cholesterol from the arterial plaque reducing its build up. High level of HDL is known to provide protection from heart attack. Hence this is known as good cholesterol.
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol in deciliter (dL) of blood. Desirable level of cholesterol in an adult is < 200 mg/dL. Cholesterol level 200-239 mg/dL is considered as border line high and a level > 240 mg/dL is considered as high. It is good to keep LDL cholesterol level < 100 mg/dL and for a high risk heart patient it is preferable to keep < 70 mg/dl. In the case of HDL cholesterol the ideal level is > 60 mg/dl.
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