Understanding Your Cholesterol

Your doctor has told you that your cholesterol is high and puts you on a statin drug. When most people think of cholesterol, they think of it as a bad thing. While too much cholesterol is not good for your health, it is a necessary component of the body. Here are the answers to some FAQs.

Where does cholesterol come from?

One source that most people are aware of is diet. Animal products including meat, eggs, dairy and seafood contain cholesterol to varying degrees. A person’s own body also makes cholesterol, mostly in the liver.

What’s the purpose of cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a necessary molecule in the body. It is part of the cell membrane helping it to remain fluid and adaptable.

It is also the precursor for many hormones in the body, including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. It also serves as a precursor to aldosterone, a hormone that maintains fluid balance in the body, and cortisol which is a stress hormone.

Without cholesterol, the body simply could not function properly.

Then what’s the bad part of cholesterol?

Actually, cholesterol has two parts. Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and High Density Lipoprotein (HDL).

To simplify, LDLs may lay down cholesterol in the form of plaque in the blood stream leading to stroke and heart attack. This is why you want the LDL number low. HDLs can transport excess cholesterol to the liver to then be expelled out of the body. This is why you want the HDL number to be high.

What is the normal range for HDL and LDL?

Cleveland Clinic offers these guidelines.

How do you maintain proper cholesterol levels?

Your doctor will probably ask you to modify your diet, eliminating fatty and fried foods and lowering consumption of red meat and foods with a lot of sugar. However, some people just produce LDL no matter what diet you are on. You may be prescribed statin drugs to slow the liver’s production of cholesterol. In any case, you should monitor your numbers with fasting blood tests to keep you informed of the balance of cholesterol in your body.