Cholesterol is a waxy substance that comes from the liver and from eating animal foods, such as red meat, full-fat dairy and poultry.
In addition, some tropical oils, such as palm oil and coconut oil, can stimulate the liver to produce more cholesterol. Your body needs cholesterol to function properly, build cells or cell membranes, digest food, and produce hormones. However, cholesterol is a substance that is misunderstood, often malicious and discussed in a bad light.
Since so many myths revolve around cholesterol, many people are not sure what to believe. The truth is, not all cholesterol is bad. However, this does not mean that you should stop controlling your cholesterol levels. While cholesterol is important for good health, too much can be unhealthy.
Good cholesterol versus bad cholesterol
One of the biggest reasons cholesterol has a bad reputation is that people are misled about its types. There are two main types of cholesterol. The first is high-density lipoprotein (HDL).HDL), or the “good” kind of cholesterol.
Read more: The most important foods for increasing HDL cholesterol
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is beneficial because it carries excess cholesterol from the arteries, tissues, and blood to the liver and removes it from the body. A healthy level of HDL cholesterol helps prevent cholesterol or plaque buildup in your arteries. As a result, it reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots.
The second type of cholesterol is low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the counterpart of “bad” HDL cholesterol. Most of the cholesterol in the blood is LDL. They are often responsible for the buildup of cholesterol, or plaque, in the arteries.
Read more: How to lower LDL cholesterol levels?
A high LDL level is a concern, but increasing HDL cholesterol and following a heart-healthy diet can help reduce its levels. HDL can remove a quarter to a third of your total LDL by returning it to the liver for elimination.
While people who are overweight or obese are more likely to have high LDL cholesterol, it affects thin people as well. Therefore, everyone 20 years of age or older should have their cholesterol levels (HDL, LDL, and triglycerides) checked every four to six years.
What is a healthy cholesterol level?
Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is essential for overall health because out of control cholesterol, especially LDL, leads to heart attacks, heart disease, and stroke.
On the other hand, if the cholesterol level is dangerously high, whether it is HDL or LDL, there is a greater risk of developing chronic health problems.
These are general recommendations for LDL, HDL, and total cholesterol levels measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL):
total cholesterol level
- Less than 200 mg/dL: desirable
- 200-239 mg/dL: borderline high
- 240 mg/dl and above: high
harmful cholesterol level
- Less than 100 mg/dL: recommended
- 100-129 mg/dL: Slightly above the ideal range
- 130-159 mg/dL: borderline high
- 160-189 mg/dL: high
- 190 mg/dl and above: very high
HDL cholesterol level
Adult men and women have different ranges for optimal HDL levels. While young boys and girls have similar HDL ranges, in boys HDL levels decline after puberty and remain low throughout their lives.
- Anyone 19 years of age or younger is at risk if their HDL is more than 45 mg/dL.
- Men age 20 or older are at risk if their HDL is less than or equal to 40 mg/dL. It is recommended when HDL is 60 mg/dL or greater.
- Women age 20 or older are at risk if their HDL is less than or equal to 50 mg/dL. It is recommended when HDL is 60 mg/dL or greater.
Is cholesterol good for health?
The relationship between cholesterol and the body is complex because everyone processes cholesterol differently. For example, some seem to be more susceptible to cholesterol-rich diets. However, compared to saturated fats, the effect of cholesterol in the blood, or the effects of cholesterol in foods, is less dramatic.
Cholesterol is not the same as fat or not as bad as saturated fat in foods. Recent studies show that the greatest danger for everyone lies in foods high in trans fats.
Your body regulates the amount of cholesterol in your blood, ensuring the desired balance. Although dietary cholesterol is not as problematic as once thought, limiting the amount of cholesterol you eat remains essential, especially if you have diabetes.
A high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol of 60 mg/dL or higher provides optimal benefits. However, studies also show that raising HDL cholesterol beyond a threshold provides no additional benefits.
Instead, it renders your HDL cholesterol ineffective, which can lead to cardiovascular disease. Therefore, cholesterol is only good in moderation or at optimal levels that are appropriate for your body.
On a healthy level, cholesterol performs the following functions to help your body:
Strengthens the immune system
A study showed that cholesterol helps with adaptive and innate immune activity. That’s because your immune cells rely on cholesterol to fight off infections and repair damaged immune cells.
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol may be harmful, but it inhibits the activity of dangerous bacterial toxins at optimal levels. Therefore, bad cholesterol levels in the blood make you more susceptible to infection.
According to doctors, cholesterol supports the healing process after surgery. The liver sends cholesterol to heal surgical wounds to tissues, small arteries, capillaries, and veins.
Therefore, when your body needs to heal a specific part, it produces cholesterol and sends it to the healing site.
Cholesterol acts as an antioxidant by protecting the body from free radicals. Wounds often carry free radicals, and cholesterol helps neutralize these excess free radicals. It is necessary to eliminate harmful free radicals to prevent diseases.
Cholesterol also helps produce steroid hormones, such as progesterone and estrogen in women and testosterone in men. Proper production of these hormones is required to support the reproductive process.
Cholesterol in the blood produces bile, a green liquid required to digest food. The bile acts as an emulsifier to break down the large fat globules in your food into smaller particles. However, too much cholesterol in bile forms solid gallstones.
Work as a builder
Another job of cholesterol is to be a structural component or building block of cells and cell membranes. Cholesterol forms the structure and provides a protective barrier for every cell in the body.
Cholesterol is essential for optimal health. An ideal level of cholesterol, especially the good HDL cholesterol, supports proper digestion, hormone production, and immune response. Regulation of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream is most important in determining health risks. However, remember that most of your health problems do not come directly from the cholesterol you eat because many other factors also play a role.
Keep your cholesterol at a “good for you” level with HealthifyMe
Several factors can cause high cholesterol levels, such as diets high in saturated or trans fats and salt, being overweight or obese, insufficient physical activity, smoking, aging, and genetic predispositions.
With HealthifyMe, you can follow low-cholesterol diets, fight obesity, prevent complications, know good food, and take care of overall health. The app allows you to easily browse, search and view the nutritional profile of different foods, including cholesterol content and calorie counts.
The newly launched HealthifyPro and its expert coach guidance is a more sensible option for those living with high cholesterol. Using HealthifyPro’s Metabolic Panel can help keep track of your blood lipid values, including total cholesterol, LDL, and HDL. Having lipid values at your fingertips helps you measure the effectiveness of your cholesterol treatment and track your improvement over time.
Your health data will be aggregated into a simple health report, which can help you understand how well your cholesterol is doing. If reports are unfavorable, health coaches will adjust diet and exercise plans accordingly.
In addition to the HealthifyMe Cholesterol Control Diet, you can significantly improve your HDL levels with the following steps:
- You should eat less than 250-300 mg of cholesterol per day if you are trying to lower your cholesterol levels.
- Instead of bad fats, focus on healthy fats, such as lean meats, nuts, seeds, and unsaturated oils like olive oil. Then, based on how many calories you eat per day, HealthifyMe coaches can design an appropriate diet with the right amount of cholesterol and fat.
- You don’t have to lose a lot of weight, but losing 8-10% of your body weight can show significant improvement. If you haven’t been active, HealthifyMe’s fitness coach can help you start slow and keep you on track.
- Reducing stress can help keep your cholesterol level in check.
- Fish oil and soluble fiber supplements can improve cholesterol, but consult your doctor before starting them.
- Too much alcohol is bad, so practice moderation. That means only one drink per day for women and two for men.
- Keep your blood pressure and blood sugar under control. The HealthifyPro CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor) shows how blood glucose levels change throughout the day in response to food and exercise.
Although high cholesterol in the body is unhealthy, you still need it to perform some basic functions. Therefore, you cannot go on without cholesterol entirely.
However, most people are not aware of its benefits, such as cholesterol’s role in immunity, vitamin D synthesis, steroid-based hormone production, digestion, and healing.
A total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL (5.17 mmol/L) is good because it plays important physiological roles in maintaining a healthy body. HealthifyPro can help you take control of your metabolic health to keep your cholesterol at optimal levels.
Health Coaches guide you towards improvement in a realistic time frame by continuously monitoring and sharing insights in real time.