25 Things You Need To Know About Cholesterol

Posted by , Updated on November 12, 2021

If you are one of those people who sees cholesterol as a bad substance that resides in fatty food and can cause serious health problems then this post is for you. This organic molecule is much more complex and interesting than we give it credit (and we should give it more credit). From the chemical point of view, cholesterol is a modified steroid – a lipid molecule that is biosynthesized by all animal cells because it is an essential structural component of all animal (but not plant or bacterial) cell membranes and is required to maintain both membrane structural integrity and fluidity. Cholesterol enables the cells to dispense with a cell wall to protect membrane integrity and cell viability, thus allowing them to change shape and move about. In other words, cholesterol – in a certain amount – is absolutely essential for our survival, which is why we think this bizarre molecule deserves our attention. Therefore, we decided to dedicate today´s post to cholesterol. If you want to know what exactly your body needs cholesterol for, how to reduce high cholesterol or what the cholesterol level of an average person is, check out these 25 Things You Need To Know About Cholesterol.


As cholesterol cannot dissolve in blood, it must be transported through your blood by carriers called lipoproteins. There are two types of them: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) known as “bad cholesterol” and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) known as “good cholesterol”.

cholesterolSource: www.heart.org, image: en.wikipedia.org

LDL cholesterol is considered “bad” because it contributes to plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries and make them less flexible. HDL cholesterol is considered “good” as it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries to the liver where it is broken down and passed from the body.

clogged arterySource: www.heart.org, image: en.wikipedia.org

Cholesterol itself is very important for us, performing crucial functions in our bodies. It aids in tissue and hormone formation, protects your nerves and helps with digestion. In fact, cholesterol helps form the structure of every cell in your body.

digestionSource: www.webmd.com, image: youtube.com

Contrary to what most people believe, not all cholesterol in the body comes from the food that we eat. In fact, most of it (about 75%) is naturally produced by our bodies, particularly the liver. The remaining 25% of your cholesterol comes from your diet.

Man eatingSource: www.naturalbodyhealing.com, image: commons.wikimedia.org

For some families, having high levels of bad cholesterol may be inevitable because of a condition called familial hypercholesterolemia. The disease affects about 1 in 500 people and can cause heart attacks even very early in life.

heart attackSource: edition.cnn.com, image: en.wikipedia.org

Overall, high cholesterol is estimated to cause 2.6 million deaths and almost 30 million DALYS (disability-adjusted life year or DALY is a measure of overall disease burden expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death) worldwide every year.

ParamedicsSource: world-heart-federation.org, image: en.wikipedia.org

While people think that high cholesterol is something that is only a problem for middle aged adults, there are also many children who suffer from unhealthy cholesterol levels. According to the American Heart Association, there is a research that the process of cholesterol buildup in arteries begins as early as in childhood.

fat kidSource: www.emedicinehealth.com, image: flickr.com

According to the National Cholesterol Education Program, everyone aged 20 and more should have their cholesterol measured at least once every 5 years. It is best to have a blood test called a “lipoprotein profile” which is done after a 9-12 hour fast and gives information about your total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides (another form of fat in your blood).

blood testSource: www.nhlbi.nih.gov, image: freestockphotos.biz

Sometimes, you can tell your cholesterol is too high even without any tests. When you have white rims around the cornea of your eyes, then your cholesterol is likely to be high. White rims around the cornea and visible fatty lumps under the skin on the eyelids are among the strongest signs of cholesterol build-up.

corneaSource: www.livestrong.com, image: en.wikipedia.org

Containing about 180 milligrams of cholesterol per piece, eggs are among food particularly rich in cholesterol.

eggs Source: www.heart.org, image: en.wikipedia.org

While high cholesterol is notorious, excessively low cholesterol levels could be just as bad for our health. Having a cholesterol level below 160 mg/dL (160 milligrams per deciliter of blood) can cause several serious health problems including cancer. Pregnant women with low levels of cholesterol are even likely to give birth to premature babies.

pregnant womanSource: www.diseaseproof.com, image: youtube.com

In case of high cholesterol, the range of health problems associated with it is even wider. Apart from the feared heart attacks, high levels of cholesterol in your blood can cause anything from kidney failure and liver cirrhosis up to Alzheimer’s disease and even erectile dysfunction.

Liver CirrhosisSource: edition.cnn.com, image: en.wikipedia.org

Paradoxically, the very same cholesterol (when within the normal limits of course) is also responsible for your sex drive. It is the main substance used in the production of testosterone, estrogen and progesterone which are all sex hormones.

loversSource: www.everydayhealth.com, image: pexels.com

According to a research done by US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the cholesterol level of an average American is 200 mg/dL, which is already borderline high. However, it is Western and Northern European countries like Norway, Iceland, UK, and Germany that have the highest cholesterol levels in the world, with an average of 215 mg/dL.

fat manSource: www.eurekalert.org, image: simple.wikipedia.org

Though men have higher total cholesterol levels than most women before they reach the age of menopause, the cholesterol levels of women normally shoot up when they reach the age of 55 to the point that they go above those of men.

nurseSource: www.nlm.nih.gov, image: freestockphotos.biz

Apart from its primary functions mentioned earlier, cholesterol also helps protect the skin, serving as an added ingredient in most moisturizers and other skin care products. It helps protect the skin from UV damage and it is also essential for producing vitamin D.

sunscreenSource: cholesterol-and-health.com, image: freestockphotos.biz

While normally, about a quarter of all the cholesterol contained in our body comes from our diet, it has been found out that even if a person consumes no dietary cholesterol at all, his liver should still be capable of making all the cholesterol needed for proper body functions.

empty plateSource: heart.org, image: commons.wikimedia.org

Lots of commercially sold food (fried and baked meals, potato chips, cakes, cookies etc.) that claim that they do not contain cholesterol may actually have cholesterol-raising trans fats which come in the form of hydrogenated vegetable oils. Sometimes referred to as “double trouble”, the trans fats raises your "bad" cholesterol and lower your "good" cholesterol.

Potato chipsSource: www.mayoclinic.org, image: commons.wikimedia.org

Once cholesterol starts building up in arteries, they gradually become thicker, more rigid and even start to take on the yellow color of cholesterol. If you were able to take a look at the inside of cholesterol-clogged arteries, they would look as if they were lined with a thick layer of butter.

arterySource: edition.cnn.com, image: en.wikipedia.org

To prevent health risks associated with high cholesterol, changing your diet is one of the most common recommendations. Try to increase your intake of foods that lower cholesterol such as legumes, fish, vegetables, oatmeal, walnuts, almonds, olive oil and even dark chocolate.

vegetablesSource: www.prevention.com, image: www.picserver.org

However, to reduce the “bad cholesterol” and boost the “good” one, you can do more than just eat healthy. Exercising has also been proven to help. Most public health organizations suggest 30 minutes of physical activity a day.

JoggingSource: www.webmd.com, image: commons.wikimedia.org

Pregnant women have naturally higher cholesterol levels than most women. When a woman is pregnant, it is pretty normal for her total cholesterol and her LDL cholesterol to reach their highest levels. Having high cholesterol levels is necessary not just in making a baby but in giving birth too.

birthSource: www.everydayhealth.com, image: en.wikipedia.org

On the other hand, couples in which both the man and woman have high cholesterol levels have a harder time conceiving. In fact, getting pregnant may take longer even if just one of the partners (whether it is the man or woman) suffers from high cholesterol.

sad coupleSource: www.womenshealthmag.com, image: youtube.com

Apart from unhealthy food, genetic predisposition and lack of physical activity, factors such as smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol and stress can also contribute to high levels of cholesterol in your blood.

SmokingSource: articles.mercola.com, image: commons.wikimedia.org

Breast milk is very rich in good cholesterol and naturally occurring breast milk fats that are easily and highly absorbable by a baby. In babies, cholesterol helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and plays a vital role in babies´ brains development.

Breast feedingSource: www.livestrong.com, image: Shutterstock

SEE ALSO: 25 Greatest Unsolved Mysteries Ever »


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