Cholesterol is one of the types of fat naturally produced by the liver and is considered essential for the production of hormones and bile salts. However, it is important to stay alert, because despite the benefits, high cholesterol levels can bring health risks.
It is important to remember that there are two types of cholesterol: LDL and HDL. The first is known as bad cholesterol, the second one is called good cholesterol, yet both must circulate in the bloodstream for the body to “work” properly. With this in mind, let’s get a better understanding of the function of each type of cholesterol.
The acronym LDL stands for Low Density Lipoprotein, because this type of cholesterol is a low density lipoprotein. LDL is responsible for the transport of cholesterol from the liver and intestines to the cells of the human body tissues. In addition, it also helps in the process of hormone formation.
On the other hand, when the LDL-cholesterol level is high, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases, because the excess cholesterol facilitates the accumulation of cholesterol on the inner walls of the arteries. This buildup, in turn, creates fatty plaques in the blood vessels and hinders blood flow. This is why this type of cholesterol is considered bad.
HDL stands for High Density Lipoprotein. Known as good cholesterol, HDL acts by removing excess cholesterol from body tissues. Therefore, it leads the fat molecules to the liver, including the bad cholesterol, where they will be metabolized and eliminated from the body.
Unlike LDL, high levels of this type of cholesterol do not generate problems, because the excess cholesterol, besides acting to prevent cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and atherosclerosis, also has an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect.
The reference values for cholesterol control vary according to age and health status. In general, for an adult aged 20 years or older, the values are:
LDL cholesterol: the recommendation is that the value should be below 130 mg/dL. However, for people with high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, arrhythmia, or other risk factors, it is recommended that the value not exceed 100 mg/dL.
HDL cholesterol: for good cholesterol, the ideal level is 60 mg/dL or higher. It is also important to say that if the HDL cholesterol level is below 40 mg/dL, it is necessary to be alert, since this value is considered low.
The total cholesterol, which is the sum of LDL, HDL, and also VLDL cholesterol, must always be below 190 mg/dL. However, it is important to note that having high total cholesterol is not always synonymous with bad health. This is because sometimes the level of good cholesterol, HDL, is high, so the total cholesterol value also rises.
Therefore, one must always take the values into consideration individually, and for this you need to have a blood test called a lipid profile. It is from this that the exact levels of each type of cholesterol are obtained.
Finally, it is important to remember that in order to maintain proper cholesterol levels, it is of utmost importance to avoid foods rich in saturated fat and sugar. On the other hand, foods like avocados, nuts, and salmon are good for improving HDL cholesterol levels in the body. In parallel, physical exercise is always one of the pillars for keeping the body healthy.