What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

Topics

Last updated:
11/10/2021

What is cholesterol in simple terms?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that circulates in the blood as part of the body’s cells and helps them function. While it is sometimes referred to as “”bad cholesterol”” because high levels can lead to heart problems, it also protects against bacteria, viruses, and malignant cells from entering the bloodstream. Understanding cholesterol helps you comprehend how these substances work through your body.

What is the function of cholesterol in the cell?

Cholesterol is a relatively small molecule, which means it can diffuse easily throughout the body and get into cells. The average adult has about 300 grams of cholesterol in their body. Cholesterol circulates in the blood as part of the body’s cells and helps them function. It is made in a cell’s mitochondria while aerobic respiration occurs. When produced in sufficient quantities, cholesterol helps keep membranes intact and nerves active; when produced in too much quantity (hypercholesterolemia), it may be deposited into fatty plaques on artery walls (atherosclerosis). This deposition may lead to atherosclerosis, which can cause heart problems or kill you through clogging arteries or heart attacks.

Cholesterol is also used to make several hormones, including:
testosterone (important for sex drive in men)
cortisol (important for stress response)
progesterone (important for pregnancy)

Can cholesterol be measured?

Yes. Cholesterol levels can be checked through a blood test at your doctor’s office or in a rapid-testing facility. The most common test checks the total amount of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol (the “”good”” kind), and triglycerides in your blood. If you are having problems with your cholesterol, you may have the following tests done:

  • A blood test that measures LDL and HDL levels. This is the most common test for cholesterol checks.
  • A blood test that measures LDL and HDL levels and triglycerides (another kind of fat in the blood).
  • An additional test to determine whether your blood contains very small particles, called VLDL, which are another type of “”bad”” cholesterol.
  • A genetic questionnaire (called the HMR [or HMG] gene version) to see whether you have a genetic predisposition for high cholesterol or heart disease.

What happens if you have high cholesterol and don’t treat it?

High levels of bad cholesterol can cause inflammatory deposits on artery walls, clogging them and restricting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to parts of your body. This can result in heart attack and death. In addition, high cholesterol can also aggravate already existing forms of atherosclerosis.

Can cholesterol be lowered?

There are medications that kill cells and lower total blood cholesterol levels (e.g., nicotinic acid). However, any study that claims you can reduce your actual blood level of saturated fat by eating more polyunsaturated fat is very questionable. Many experts feel that attempting to lower LDL or total cholesterol by diet alone is not a good idea as this will cause triglycerides to rise and blood sugar to fall. In addition, saturated fats have been shown to raise HDL levels, suggesting that high levels of HDL may help prevent hardening of the arteries in the first place.

Can high cholesterol cause cancer?

There is no evidence that high cholesterol and elevated levels of bad cholesterol can cause cancer. In fact, foods that are rich in unsaturated fats have been associated with a decreased risk of some cancers such as colorectal, breast and prostate.”

Having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart heart attack and stroke. Learn here How can you lower your risk of heart attack and stroke?