By Dr. Sergio Lopez Salamanca
Cholesterol is a substance belonging to the group of lipids (fats) that has the distinction of being poorly soluble in water and very soluble in fats. It is produced mainly in the liver and also derives from the foods we eat, being absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. It should not be considered in and of itself as something bad, because its function is of great importance to the proper functioning of the body.
It is known that cholesterol is an important component of bile salts that promote digestion and absorption of fats we eat in food. It is involved in the formation of some hormones such as sex hormones; it is a very important component of the membranous structures of the body cells; in addition, it helps the skin to speed up its protective barrier function against the external environment.
In a simple way we can say that there are two types of cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), often called “bad” cholesterol associated with damaging fatty deposits in artery walls that can cause the development of cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, circulatory failure or myocardial infarction, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), called “good” cholesterol and linked to the function of absorbing fats that are deposited in the arteries, thus fulfilling a protective function.
It is important to note that you should not only keep within normal limits of total cholesterol in your body, but also try to keep the amount of HDL cholesterol at the highest possible levels within acceptable ranges. We know that factors predisposing to raise total cholesterol, especially LDL, are a diet rich in saturated fats, obesity and physical inactivity, so it is vital that people direct their efforts toward changing their lifestyle if necessary.
There are several drugs, such as statins, that can help lower total cholesterol levels in blood and help raise HDL cholesterol, but their use carries risks of adverse effects on the body, so they should always be prescribed by a doctor and be used under medical supervision.
It is important to emphasize that to achieve and maintain cholesterol levels in the desirable range you may need to change your diet and level of physical activity, so in the next article I will devote a few lines to this and mention some actions that can foster a healthy lifestyle.