Spacefill model of the Cholesterol molecule

Spacefill model of the Cholesterol molecule (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cholesterol is a soft, wax-like substance made in the liver and contained in food.  It is transported by the blood to different areas of the body.  The two main categories of cholesterol are low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL).  Triglycerides are another type of fat  made in the body and in food that, along with LDL and HDL, are important to the storage of energy, the immune system and many types of metabolism.
The total cholesterol blood tests measure the total amounts of cholesterol and normally  the LDL, HDL and triglyceride levels in the blood.  Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL=one tenth of a liter) of blood.  

LDL is considered bad cholesterol and HDL is considered good cholesterol.


Factors affecting cholesterol and triglyceride levels include:
The amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in food–recommended higher consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains
Trans fatty acids intake
Amount of monounsaturated fats such as canola oil, avocado oil, or olive oil consumed which increases HDLAlcohol consumption can increase triglyceride levels
Higher body weight than normal increases LDL and triglyceride levels
Exercise reduces LDL and increases HDL
As people age the LDL levels tend to increase
Cigarette smoking tends to increase LDLDNA, received from your parents, will influence the amount and type of cholesterol in the body


Low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) is called bad cholesterol and is the type of cholesterol that is referred to when someone has “high cholesterol”.  When the LDL levels are too high, the excess LDL begins to stick to the walls of the arteries.  This is called “hardening of the arteries”.  Over time, the LDL build-up will restrict the blood flow to the heart.  Since the blood is carrying oxygen to the heart, the restriction can start to damage the heart.  This can lead to heart attacks and strokes. 


High density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) is labeled “good cholesterol” because it helps control the levels of LDL in the body by removing LDL from the walls of the arteries.  Generally, higher HDL levels in the body mean that more LDL is being removed and transported back to the liver and then for elimination from the body.


Triglycerides are the main type of fat in food and are also made in the body. Triglycerides are metabolized and some of the fat gets used by the body for energy and other parts are stored in the cells for future energy.  High levels of triglycerides can create heart problems and metabolic syndrome


In most cases, these levels are considered normal:
LDL cholesterol levels less than 130 mg/dL (lower numbers are desired)
HDL cholesterol levels greater than 40 mg/dL (higher numbers are desired)

Total cholesterol levels that are less than 200 mg/dL (lower numbers are desired)

Triglyceride levels less than 150 mg/dL (lower numbers are desired)