The Pros of Good Cholesterol
If you were to die tomorrow, would your family and dependents be able to provide for themselves? Although it is a bit of a morbid thought, a little time spent organizing a life insurance policy can help to put it out of your mind for good. If you have still to do this, you can often find cheap life insurance deals online.
Thinking about issues regarding your own mortality can bring health issues into sharper focus. After all, you want to put off claiming on that life insurance policy for as long as possible! If you took all your health advice from advertisements for low-fat spreads, you could be forgiven for believing that cholesterol is some kind of bodily poison that must be wiped out at all costs if you are to avoid an early death.
The truth is altogether different. Cholesterol is a good thing. Nature did not give us the ability to manufacture cholesterol to harm us. In fact, we couldn't function without it, and it is produced naturally within your body in order to aid several crucial bodily functions.
Cholesterol is a waxy compound that is found naturally in the tissues of all animals. Mostly, it is produced in the liver, although smaller amounts are produced in the small intestine and in individual cells around your body. Cholesterol does not dissolve in blood so it cannot travel to where it is needed on its own. It is packaged by the liver into lipoproteins, which are combinations of proteins and fats, which carry the cholesterol along with other fats, fat-soluble vitamins, and other vital substances throughout the bloodstream to the cells that require them.
All cholesterol is 'good' cholesterol, in that it plays a vital role in forming and maintaining cell walls and structures, insulating nerve cells, and helping cells adjust to changes in temperature.
Cholesterol is needed for the production of hormones such as testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen, and also for the production of bile, which helps to process and digest fats. In addition, it is also required for the production of vitamin D in the presence of sunlight.
However, although the cholesterol is beneficial, if you eat polyunsaturated vegetable margarines and cooking oils, the low-density lipoproteins, or LDL for short, which carry cholesterol around, will also carry unsaturated fats which can be oxidized and create free radicals. These can be bad for you. If your arteries are damaged, LDL rushes to the wound to repair it. If you have too much of these fats in your LDL, it can form plaques which cause blockages that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Although saturated fats are generally blamed, plaques in arteries are found to contain mostly polyunsaturated fats.
It is thought that high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which are dense with protein and have less fat, can actually reduce your chances of heart disease and stroke. For more information about cholesterol, take a look at this Wikipedia entry.