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Cholesterol is a type of fatty substance that does not dissolve easily in the blood stream. However, it has many uses and important functions. These are:
  • Cholesterol is important to every cell in the body for the building of its membrane, which protects it from harmful substances in the body.
  • Water doesn't leave the body as readily and this is only because of cholesterol in the body.
  • It plays a vital role in the production of hormones in the adrenal glands, testes, and the ovaries.
  • Vitamin D, which is so essential to the body, cholesterol helps in its production.
Hence, we cannot say that it is harmful to the body, because it is not. High cholesterol is harmful which means that normal cholesterol levels need to be maintained in the blood stream for better overall health.

Cholesterol - The Good and The Bad

Cholesterol doesn't dissolve in the blood because it is a fatty substance, it just keeps moving around in the blood stream in the body, and this is before it latches on to fatty proteins. These proteins are of two types - high-density lipoprotein (HDL Cholesterol) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL Cholesterol).

HDL Cholesterol - is the substance in the body that keeps the cholesterol liquid in the body moving. It attaches itself to the cholesterol and doesn't allow it to get stuck to walls of the arteries. This is the reason why HDL cholesterol is good cholesterol.

LDL Cholesterol - it is not at all useful. This LDL when oxidized can cause a lot of damage to the walls of the arteries and leave mineral and fat deposits, which are how blockages are formed. It is important to minimize LDL levels and maximize HDL.

These levels are determined through a blood test. Before getting a blood test done, always ask for a lipid profile. This will measure the cholesterol and also give a distinct report on LDL and HDL cholesterol. It is important to know what the normal levels should be. If you want normal cholesterol levels, it is important to make lifestyle changes.
  • Overall cholesterol level normally should be between 135 to 200 mg/dL.
  • LDL Cholesterol, which is harmful, should normally be less than 130 mg/dL.
  • HDL Cholesterol, the good cholesterol should be above 40 mg/dL.
  • The normal ratio of Total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol should be 4.0 to 6.0 for men and 3.7 to 5.7 for women. This ratio helps in determining how healthy a person is.
Initially, medical health care professionals would insist on decreasing LDL cholesterol levels, which was the bad cholesterol. However, these days the stress is on increasing the HDL levels which is the good cholesterol. While understanding the levels of cholesterol, it is important to know that both men and women will have different levels of normal cholesterol.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.