What is cholesterol?

“Cholesterol”… You must have heard that word before, or read it in a health magazine, on a website, in government recommendations… Here you can learn more about it.

Cholesterol, a lipid like any other

Lipids, known in common parlance as “fats”, are one of three groups of essential nutrients, along with proteins (proteins) and carbohydrates (sugars).

Lipids are the most energetic nutrients, in other words, the most caloric. In fact, if you eat more than you need, your body turns excess useless energy into fat and stores it. In the past, it was useful to prevent periods when food was lacking, but today it is a cause of overweight.

Lipids store energy in the “adipose tissue”, the fatty parts of our body, and build the membranes of all our cells. They represent about 12% of the body weight for men and 26% for women.

Among the lipids, we can distinguish two types:

– fatty acids, especially the famous omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that advertisements boast about!

– Cholesterol

So what’s the point of cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a lipid that is essential for life. It is used in the composition of cell membranes and is used to produce many hormones. These hormones play essential roles in reproduction, stress management, growth….

Finally, cholesterol is involved in the synthesis of vitamin D and bile acids, which are used to absorb fat during digestion.

However, excess cholesterol is harmful. Indeed, cholesterol is divided into two types: “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol”. Normally, both find the right balance. But when there is too much cholesterol, it is mainly the bad cholesterol that increases.

What are the risks?

The crux of the problem is that fat deposits accumulate in the walls of the arteries: to put it simply, the artery gets blocked and can no longer let the blood flow properly. This is called “atherosclerosis”.  It can eventually lead to myocardial infarction or stroke.

Some factors increase the risk of having too much cholesterol, such as:

– Overweight

– Lack of physical activity, as sport helps to maintain the functioning of the arteries

– Smoking, which contributes to clogging the arteries

– Genetic factors, this is referred to as “familial hypercholesterolemia”. It is not fatal, but it must be detected early enough and managed.

– the contraceptive pill, which is why doctors sometimes prescribe a blood test before deciding to deliver it.

But be careful, you can be thin, young, and have too much cholesterol too!

How to prevent risks?

To avoid high cholesterol levels, a healthy lifestyle is essential. It is necessary:

– Prefer vegetable fats to animal fats in the diet

– Eating fruits and vegetables

– Reduce the consumption of simple carbohydrates (it’s sugar!)

– Be physically active on a regular basis: it is generally recommended to have at least half an hour of brisk walking every day.

Today cholesterol may seem distant to you, and it has a good chance of being so… but it is better to prevent than to cure it.

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