What is cholesterol?
Everything about cholesterol, its synthesis, types and role in the body.
Your concern for your health and well-being must have led you to this page. Your mind must be filled with some questions e.g., what is cholesterol? How it is produced in our body? What is its role inside the body? Is it harmful? What are its various types? What is its normal value? How it could harm our bodies? This review will provide answers to these queries.
Cholesterol- a dangerous necessity
Your first impression might be a dangerous substance that is extremely harmful to the body. This is not true. Cholesterol is a constituent of our body just like sugars and proteins. The problem is just with its excessive presence.
Cholesterol is a lipid molecule. It is an organic molecule containing carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. It is synthesised in all animal cells. Although it is rarely purified, its purified form is a crystalline solid of yellowish colour. Although it was for the first time identified by the French chemist François Poulletier de la Salle in 1769, its name was given in 1815 by another French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul.
How cholesterol is produced inside our body?
Cholesterol present in our body is derived from two sources.
- Dietary cholesterol
- Cholesterol synthesised inside the body by the liver
Our body can synthesise cholesterol from its chemical precursors inside the liver. However, it also enters the body from the foodstuffs. Various cholesterol-rich foods are cheese, yolk, red meat and eggs etc. About three-quarters of cholesterol inside your body is produced by the liver. The rest is of dietary origin.
What is the role of cholesterol in the body?
Extensive awareness media campaigns have created the impression that cholesterol is a dangerous compound that is not only useless but also harmful to the body. That is not the case. You might be surprised to know that cholesterol has several extremely important roles inside the body. Besides being a part of animal cells, it is also used by the body as a chemical precursor to synthesise various steroid hormones e.g., sex hormones testosterone and estrogen. These hormones have important functions inside our bodies. Imagine your life if you are missing testosterone. You will not be able to produce your next generation. Similarly, you will also be deprived of all feelings of romance, love and companionship.
Similarly, bile produced by your body has cholesterol. Therefore, it has a role in digestion too.
Cholesterol is also involved in the synthesis of vitamins e.g., Vit. D, the vitamin which is responsible for making your bones strong.
So, where does the problem lie? The problem occurs when the cholesterol contents exceed the normal level, the particularly bad cholesterol. So, you need to understand the difference between good and bad cholesterol.
Good and bad cholesterols
Based on chemical density the biochemists divide these lipid molecules into three categories viz. HDL, LDL, VLDL.
It is the abbreviation of high-density lipoprotein. It is a ‘good cholesterol’. Which attribute has entitled it to good status? It's not its colour or any personal trait. Its positive role in the body makes it a good one. It directs the cholesterol molecules from various other body parts to the liver which removes these molecules from the body. So, HDL has an important role in maintaining the cholesterol level in the body.
It means low-density lipoprotein. It is the main circulatory form of cholesterol. It is labelled as ‘bad cholesterol’ because it can accumulate in the form of plagues in the arteries of your body. The result will be restricted blood supply to the respective area.
How cholesterol can harm our body?
So, whenever bad cholesterols exceed the recommended levels, they will settle inside the arteries of your body in the form of plagues. The result will be a reduced blood supply to the given organ. Alternately, when the blood pushes heavily to move forward, it can dislodge the fatty clot from its original place. It will then settle down in some thinner arteries. You might feel symptoms of heart attack e.g., lower jaw pain, chest pain (angina) etc.
Whenever, the blood supply to vital organs e.g., heart, liver, kidneys and brain is reduced, the results could be catastrophic. It is one of the causes of heart attack worldwide. Excessive cholesterol deposition in the arteries leading to the brain increases the risk of brain stroke.
High LDL cholesterol in the arteries has also been linked to impairment of brain functions and memory issues. As it is a crystalline solid, it can crystallise into very painful and hard stones in the gallbladder (gallstones). Have you noticed excessive numbness in your feet and legs? It is also related to the hardening of arteries of the given region due to excessive LDL deposition. If a person having extremely high LDL is also suffering from high blood pressure, there are increased chances of artery rupture and haemorrhage.
Cholesterol values ranges
Total cholesterol in your body is a sum of HDL, LDL and 20% normal fats (triglycerides). For healthy adults, the total cholesterol in the blood should be less than 200 mg/ dL. It is recommended to have more HDL (more than 40 mg/ dL) and lower LDL ( less than 100 mg/ dL). For children, the threshold of total cholesterol is lower at 170 mg/ dL (LDL lower than 110 mg/ dL and HDL higher than 45 mg/ dL). The values in the range of 200-239 mg/ dL are described as medium higher while total cholesterol of more than 240 mg/ dL is taken as high cholesterol concentration. The values vary with age but show minimal changes in gender.
So, it is prudent to regularly monitor your lipid profile and visit a doctor whenever your total cholesterol level persistently remains higher for a longer period.
To determine your Cholesterol levels use our at-home Cholesterol Blood Test.
For more blood tests and medications, visit our Welzo Online Pharmacy Page.
Plus get the inside scoop on our latest content and updates in our monthly newsletter.