Cholesterol is a waxy substance that comes from your liver and from consuming animal-based foods, such as red meat, full-fat dairy products, and poultry.
In addition, some tropical oils, such as palm and coconut oil, can prompt your liver to produce more cholesterol. Your body needs cholesterol to function correctly, build cells or cell membranes, digest food, and make hormones. However, cholesterol is a misunderstood substance, often villainised and discussed in a bad light.
Since so many myths are circulating about cholesterol, many people are unsure what to believe. The truth is not all cholesterol is bad. Still, this does not mean you should stop controlling your cholesterol levels. While cholesterol is crucial for good health, too much can be unhealthy.
Good Cholesterol Vs Bad Cholesterol
One of the biggest reasons behind the bad reputation of cholesterol is that people are misinformed about its types. There are two main types of cholesterol. The first is high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or the “good” kind of cholesterol.
HDL cholesterol is good because it carries excess cholesterol from the arteries, tissues and blood to the liver, removing it from your body. A healthy level of HDL cholesterol helps prevent cholesterol buildup or plaques in the arteries. As a result, it reduces your risk of heart attack, stroke and blood clots.
The second type of cholesterol is low-density lipoprotein (LDL), HDL cholesterol’s “bad” counterpart. Most of the cholesterol in your blood is LDL. It is often responsible for creating cholesterol buildup or plaque in your arteries.
Read more: How to Reduce LDL Cholesterol Levels?
A high LDL is concerning, but boosting your HDL cholesterol and following a heart-healthy diet can help reduce your levels. HDL can remove one-quarter to one-third of your total LDL by carrying it back to the liver for elimination.
While overweight or obese people are more likely to have high LDL cholesterol, it affects thin people, too. Therefore, everyone aged 20 and older should check their cholesterol levels (HDL, LDL, and triglycerides) every four to six years.
What is a Healthy Cholesterol Level?
Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is essential for overall health since out-of-control cholesterol, particularly LDL, leads to heart attack, heart disease and stroke.
On the other hand, if your cholesterol level is dangerously high, be it HDL or LDL, there is a greater risk of developing chronic health issues.
These are general recommendations for LDL, HDL, and total cholesterol levels measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL):
Total Cholesterol Level
- Less than 200 mg/dL: Desirable
- 200-239 mg/dL: Borderline high
- 240 mg/dL and above: High
LDL Cholesterol Level
- Less than 100 mg/dL: Recommended
- 100-129 mg/dL: Slightly above the ideal range
- 130-159 mg/dL: Borderline high
- 160-189 mg/dL: High
- 190 mg/dL and above: Very high
HDL Cholesterol Level
Adult men and women have different ranges for optimal HDL levels. While young boys and girls have similar HDL ranges, the HDL levels fall in boys after puberty and remain lower throughout their lives.
- Anyone aged 19 or younger is at risk if the HDL is more than 45 mg/dL
- Men aged 20 or above are at risk if their HDL is less than or equal to 40 mg/dL. It is desirable when the HDL is 60 mg/dL or more.
- Women aged 20 or above are at risk if their HDL is less than or equal to 50 mg/dL. It is desirable when the HDL is 60 mg/dL or more.
Is Cholesterol Good for Health?
The relationship between cholesterol and the body is complicated since everyone processes cholesterol differently. For example, some appear to be more vulnerable to cholesterol-rich diets. However, compared with saturated fat, the effect of blood cholesterol or the traces of cholesterol in foods is less dramatic.
Cholesterol is not the same as fat or not as bad as saturated fat in foods. Recent studies say the greater danger for everyone is in foods high in trans fats.
Your body regulates how much cholesterol is in your blood, ensuring a desirable balance. Although dietary cholesterol is not as problematic as once believed, limiting the amount of cholesterol you eat remains essential, especially if you have diabetes.
HDL cholesterol of 60 mg/dL or higher offers optimal benefits. However, studies also say raising HDL cholesterol beyond a threshold offers no extra benefits.
Instead, it makes the HDL cholesterol dysfunctional, which may promote cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, cholesterol is only good in moderation or at the optimal levels suited for your body.
At a healthy level, cholesterol performs the following functions to help your body:
Strengthens Immune System
A study shows that cholesterol aids in adaptive and innate immunity activity. It is because your immune cells rely on cholesterol to fight against infections and repair damaged immune cells.
LDL cholesterol might be bad, but it inactivates dangerous bacterial toxins at optimal levels. Therefore, poor circulating cholesterol levels make you more prone to infection.
According to doctors, cholesterol supports the post-surgery healing process. The liver sends cholesterol to heal the surgical cuts made on tissues, small arteries, capillaries and veins.
So, when your body requires to heal a particular part, it produces and sends cholesterol to the healing site.
Cholesterol acts as an antioxidant by protecting the body from free radicals. The wounds often carry free radicals, and cholesterol helps neutralise these excess free radicals. It is necessary to eliminate harmful free radicals to keep diseases at bay.
Cholesterol also helps produce steroid hormones, such as progesterone and oestrogen in women and testosterone in men. The proper production of these hormones is required to support the reproduction process.
Blood cholesterol creates bile, a greenish fluid required to digest food. The bile acts as an emulsifier to break down large fat globules in your food into smaller particles. However, too much cholesterol in your bile forms hard stones in your gallbladder.
Act as Building Block
Another task of cholesterol is being a structural component or building block of cells and cell membranes. Cholesterol makes up the structure and provides a protective barrier to every cell in our body.
The HealthifyMe Note
Cholesterol is necessary for optimal health. An ideal level of cholesterol, specifically the good HDL cholesterol, supports proper digestion, hormone production, and immune response. Regulating the LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream is most important in determining health risks. However, remember that most of your health issues do not come directly from the cholesterol you eat since various other factors also play a role.
Maintain Cholesterol at a “Good for You” Level With HealthifyMe
Several factors can cause high cholesterol levels, such as diets high in saturated or trans fats and salt, being overweight or obese, not enough physical activity, smoking, old age, and inherited tendencies.
With HealthifyMe, you can follow low-cholesterol diets, fight obesity, prevent complications, know good food, and care about overall health. The app lets you easily browse, search for, and display the nutritional profile of different foods, including the cholesterol content and calorie count.
The newly launched HealthifyPro and its expert coach guidance are a more reasonable option for those living with high cholesterol. Using HealthifyPro’s Metabolic Panel can help track your blood lipid values, including total cholesterol, LDL, and HDL. Having your lipid values handy helps measure the effectiveness of your cholesterol treatment and track your improvement over time.
Your health data will get collated into a simple health report, which can help you understand how well your cholesterol is performing. If the reports are not favourable, your health coaches will modify the diet plans and exercise accordingly.
In addition to the personalised cholesterol control diet from HealthifyMe, you can significantly improve your good cholesterol levels with the following steps:
- You should eat less than 250-300 mg of cholesterol daily if you are trying to lower your cholesterol levels.
- Instead of bad fats, focus on healthier fats, such as lean meat, nuts, seeds, and unsaturated oils like olive oils. Then, depending on how many calories you eat daily, HealthifyMe coaches can design a suitable diet with the appropriate amount of cholesterol and fat.
- You don’t have to lose much weight, but losing 8-10% of body weight can show significant improvement. If you haven’t been active, the fitness coach from HealthifyMe can help you start slowly and keep you on track.
- Reducing stress can help keep your cholesterol in check.
- Fish oil supplements and soluble fibre supplements can improve cholesterol, but check in with a doctor before starting them.
- Too much alcohol is bad, so practice moderation. It means having only one drink daily for women and two for men.
- Keep your blood pressure and blood sugar under control. The HealthifyPro CGM (continuous glucose monitor) shows how your blood glucose levels alter throughout the day in response to food and exercise.
Although a high cholesterol level in your body is unhealthy, you still need it to carry out some essential functions. So, you cannot go entirely without cholesterol.
Yet most people are unaware of its benefits, such as the role of cholesterol in immunity, vitamin D synthesis, steroid-based hormone production, digestion, and healing.
A total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL (5.17 mmol/L) is good since it plays important physiological roles in maintaining a healthy body. HealthifyPro can help you take control of your metabolic health to keep cholesterol at ideal levels.
The health coaches guide you toward improvement in a realistic timeframe by continuous monitoring and sharing real-time insights.