Understanding Cholesterol: A Killer

It’s name originates from the Greek chole- (bile) and stereos (solid), as researchers first identified cholesterol in solid form in gallstones.

Cholesterol is found in the cell membranes of all body tissue and it’s transported in the blood of all animals. Cholesterol is a steroid, a lipid and an alcohol. Most cholesterol is not dietary in origin because it’s synthesized internally. Cholesterol is however present in higher concentrations in tissues, which either produce more or have more densely packed membranes. Cholesterol plays a major role in many biochemical processes, but is best known for the association of cardiovascular disease.

Cholesterol is primarily synthesized from acetyl CoA through the HMG-CoA reductase pathway in many cells/tissues. About 20-25% of total daily production (~1 g/day) takes place in the liver, other sites of higher synthesis rates include the intestines, adrenal glands and reproductive organs.

For a person of about 150 pounds (68 kg), typical total body content is about 35 g, typical daily internal production is about 1 g and typical daily dietary intake is 200 to 300 mg. Of the 1,200 to 1,300 mg input to the intestines (via bile production and food intake), about 50% is typically reabsorbed into the bloodstream.

Cholesterol is minimally soluble in water; it cannot dissolve or travel in the water-based bloodstream this way. Instead, it’s transported in the bloodstream by lipoproteins; protein “molecular-suitcases” which are water-soluble and carry cholesterol and fats internally. The proteins forming the surface of the given lipoprotein particle determine from what cells cholesterol will be removed and ultimately to where it will be supplied.

The largest lipoproteins primarily transport fats from the intestinal mucosa to the liver are called chylomicrons. They carry mostly triglyceride fats and cholesterol. In the liver, chylomicron particles give up triglycerides and some cholesterol only to be converted into low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles which carry triglycerides and cholesterol on to other body cells. In healthy individuals the LDL particles are large and relatively few in number. Conversely, large numbers of small LDL particles are strongly associated with promoting atheromatous disease within the arteriesHigh density lipoprotein (HDL) particles transport cholesterol back to the liver for excretion, but vary considerably in their effectiveness for doing this.
Having large numbers of large HDL particles correlates with better health outcomes. Conversely, having small amounts of large HDL particles is strongly associated with atheromatous disease progression within the arteries.

The cholesterol molecules present in LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol are identical. The difference between the two cholesterol derives from the carrier protein molecules; the lipoprotein component.

If your doctor tells you that you have high cholesterol you should take it seriously. Although there are medications that can lower cholesterol, good diet and a consistant exercise plan along with other simple lifestyle changes will prove to lower cholesterol significantly. The FDA (Federal Drug Administration) require manufacturers to label products for a reason. Read the labels to see the amount of cholesterol, look for foods with no cholesterol or low cholesterol.

Exercise at least three times a week for twenty minutes. Brisk walking is a great way or any type of exercise that increases the hear’t’s beat. Getting plenty of sleep is another healthy move. The body is able to function properly when adequate sleep, exercise and a healthy diet is followed. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation causes an abundance of physical and mental issues. Take care of your body and your body will take care of you. Medical research has taken the time to research how our body functions and it’s no longer such a mystery, but only we can change our lifestyle to reap the benefits.

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