Test scores are the place where parents like to see high numbers. That’s not the case when it comes to dietary cholesterol. Most young people consider a discussion on cholesterol to be nursing home conversation. The interesting part is that poor eating habits as children can lead to more serious cholesterol conversations as adults.
In simplest terms, cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance in the blood stream which helps the body digest food. For the average person, the body generates enough cholesterol to allow the digestive system to work properly. However, for people with a family history of high bad cholesterol, the body generates more cholesterol than what is needed. Inactive individuals who consume a diet heavy in fried foods tend to have an excessive amount of cholesterol.
Imagine a regular drinking straw. Now imagine trying to move butter through that straw. That’s similar to the way blood veins transport cholesterol. Lipoproteins are the vehicles the body uses to move the cholesterol through the straw or the veins. When the veins are in good health, the lipoproteins flow freely through the blood stream and are deposited appropriately.
When the body produces or accumulates more cholesterol than what is needed, the excess clings to the side of the veins in the form of plaque. The more plaque builds on the vein walls – similar to the inside of the straw – the harder the heart has to work to force the blood to flow.
The key to successfully managing any health condition is education. Doctors have little time to spend with patients, and rarely do they spend that time defining terms. It is important for patients to learn common terms and risks. For cholesterol patients, the important terms to know are HDL and LDL.
HDL or high-density lipoprotein acts like a sponge and absorbs excess cholesterol. To keep it simple, the goal is high HDL and low LDL. HDL tries to counter the effects of LDL, so logically patients with higher HDL numbers tend to have less heart disease. Actions to increase helpful cholesterol – HDL – numbers include exercising and avoiding white flour products which are high in refined carbohydrates.
LDL or low-density lipoprotein is cholesterol produced naturally in the body often with genetic links. Genetic links mean parents with elevated cholesterol risk tend to have children with a greater cholesterol risk. Perfectly balanced cholesterol numbers and perfect test scores usually aren’t an accident for adults or children.