What Is Cholesterol Used For – Understanding Cholesterol Role!
Wondering what is cholesterol? You are not alone. Typically it is a word ignored by the thirty and under crowd, and by the time most people start to think about cholesterol, it has been saddled with a negative connotation and dubbed “bad” for the body. This is unfortunate, because cholesterol is actually completely vital to numerous physiological processes within the body (which is why the body itself produces it!) And, while controlling the levels of the lipid is essential to good overall health – balance, rather than reduction may be a better way to think about the molecule.
Healthy cholesterol levels contribute to many processes within the body. In fact, answering what is cholesterol means delving deep down into the body on a fundamental cellular level. The lipid is used to construct and sustain the membranes of cells. Cholesterol also plays several roles with regards transportation between cells, and helps serve as part of the road maintenance crew of the body, so to speak. It helps cells signal each other and assists in the ability of nerves to conduct their messages throughout the body. Cholesterol also upgrades the efficiency of impulses passing through the body, as it provides insulation to make this process more proficient. The liver also requires cholesterol, as the organ converts it to bile, which is then stored in the gallbladder. The salts found in bile (called bile salts) are responsible for aiding digestion and helping along the absorption of both fat molecules as vitamins that are soluble in fat, like vitamins K, E, D and A, according to Wikipedia.
These processes are very important to the body, but if you dig even deeper into answering the question of what is cholesterol, it becomes apparent that synthesis is also a very important part of the lipid’s resume. Aside from aiding in the production of vitamin D, on a molecular level cholesterol is also essential to the synthesis of cortisol and aldosterone, both adrenal gland hormones. And, sex hormones benefit from cholesterol too, because testosterone, estrogen and progesterone rely on it in the early stages of production.
For all the important processes that cholesterol is responsible for in the body, it still bears a rather grisly connotation. This is because cholesterol and heart disease have been intimately and irrefutably linked, where serious conditions like atherosclerosis (hardening or narrowing of the arteries) have undoubtedly been coupled with abnormal cholesterol levels. However, understanding the relationship between cholesterol and its negative impact on the heart has less to do with overall high cholesterol levels and more to do with a balance between different types of the lipid.
When trying to understand what is cholesterol, often the first thing that people think of is “bad” cholesterol and “good” cholesterol. The American Heart Association explains that having too little good cholesterol or too much bad cholesterol can greatly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease or serious conditions like strokes. Bad cholesterol refers to LDL cholesterol, which stands for low density lipoproteins. When these become too over abundant in the bloodstream, they can actually clog up arteries and that can lead to sudden and serious illness like a heart attack.
Conversely, “good” cholesterol, which refers to HDL (high density lipoprotein) has the opposite effect because it works like an on duty police officer in the arteries by helping to prevent the LDL cholesterol from affixing itself to the walls of the arteries. The American Heart Association explains that low levels of good cholesterol also increase the risk of developing heart disease, furthering the argument that this type of cholesterol is very important.
With all of this information about how cholesterol is both good and bad for the body, it is no wonder that people are confused about just what is cholesterol. This confusion is further propagated by the fact that the body is responsible for making three quarters of the cholesterol found in the body, which can make controlling cholesterol levels seem impossible, since just 25% of it comes from dietary intake. While it is true that heredity plays some role in the cholesterol production output of the body, there are many steps that can be taken to keep the amount of cholesterol in the body at a healthy ratio. Sometimes, cholesterol medications are used if necessary and other times, lifestyle changes are adequate to restore proper internal balance.
In fact, having a true understanding of what is cholesterol may be the key to actually controlling it and making performing the internal balancing act of the lipids a part of a healthy lifestyle. There are many ways to lower cholesterol naturally. For instance, the American Heart Association recommends reducing trans-fats and making certain dietary changes to help reduce high cholesterol levels. And, increasing HDL is just as important in the endeavor to balance cholesterol levels, and adding in regular weekly physical activity as well as reducing damaging habits like smoking can play an important role in increasing HDL levels.
So what is cholesterol? It is a vital part of many of the body’s physiological processes. It is made in the body and also obtained from the food we eat. How much we have depends on our family’s history and our lifestyles. And, how we control it depends on how much we are willing to give our bodies the tools they need to be healthy. Cholesterol is a good part of the body’s manufacturing processes, but when whacked out of balance, it can be a bad part of contributing to the development of serious and even life threatening conditions.