Cholesterol tends to have a bad name, so it may surprise you to learn that it has an essential role in our bodies.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance made in the liver and found in all your body’s cells.
Cholesterol is an essential cell membrane component. Cell membranes are the structures that border every cell in the human body.
What purpose does cholesterol serve in our bodies?
If we did not have some cholesterol in our bodies, then our T-cells (white blood cell type) would not maintain their cell membranes – leading to cell rupture.
Many hormones in our bodies, such as testosterone and progesterone (sex hormones), aldosterone(which helps kidneys to retain water) and cortisol (which suppresses inflammation in the body), also require cholesterol for production.
We also need cholesterol in our skin to manufacture vitamin D, helping our body maintain bone density.
However, too much of a good thing can cause problems!
What types of cholesterol are there?
Two different types of cholesterol can impact your health – LDL (low density) and HDL (high-density). Both are lipoproteins composed of fat and protein and are responsible for carrying cholesterol throughout your body in the blood.
LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is also known as “bad” cholesterol.
It has this name as too much LDL can lead to a hardening of the arteries.
LDL leads to the accumulation of plaque on the walls of your arteries which can cause two separate issues:
- narrowing of blood vessels, reducing the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout your body
- blood clots can break loose and stop the flow of blood around your body, causing a heart attack or stroke
Therefore, your LDL cholesterol number is the one you need to keep an eye on to make sure it is less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is also known as “good cholesterol”.
HDL helps keep your cardiovascular system healthy as it aids in the removal of LDL from the arteries.
It then carries the excess LDL back to your liver, which is broken down and removed from your body as waste.
You can test your cholesterol levels at home with the Test2Go Cholesterol Level Test – an easy finger-prick blood test that can identify high levels of cholesterol in your blood within minutes.
The advantage of this self-test is that it can be carried out in the privacy of your own home, ensuring complete confidentiality while also highlighting whether there is a need for you to take further steps to manage your health.
If the results of this test indicate raised cholesterol levels, then you should speak to your Dr for further advice. You should take no medical decisions about your health without consulting a medical professional.