What is cholesterol, and why does it matter?
The Good and the Bad
You might have heard about good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. You may know someone in your family, perhaps a parent or grandparent, who has high cholesterol. What is cholesterol, and why does it matter?
Put simply, cholesterol is a fatty substance found in our bodies. We need cholesterol to help our bodies work properly. The problem starts when there’s too much cholesterol, more specifically, where there’s too much bad cholesterol and not enough good cholesterol. That causes clogged-up arteries, which could, chas v’shalom, lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Your body starts collecting cholesterol in your arteries during childhood, and even more so as a teen. So what can you do about it?
Clean Up Your Act
HDL is your good cholesterol. It’s good because it doesn’t clog up your arteries. Instead, it acts as a kind of cholesterol-cleaner, removing bad cholesterol from your blood and bringing it to your liver, where it’s broken up and removed from your body. You can raise your HDL by eating lots of high-fiber fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes, which don’t have cholesterol at all. Experiment with new, fun, healthy recipes. Fatty fish and avocados, in particular, contain a lot of healthy fats. Dig in!
Say Goodbye to Saturated Fats
This is your bad cholesterol. It creates plaque, which builds up on the walls of your blood vessels, making them narrower and stiffer. Eventually, the plaque can even block a blood vessel completely and cause a life-threatening heart attack or stroke. You can lower your LDL by avoiding foods high in saturated and trans fats. Get rid of fried foods, especially fried meat or cheese: they’re very high in cholesterol and trans fats. This includes fast food — try creating delicious, healthier options at home with friends instead! It’s smart to stay away from processed meats like hotdogs and, as usual, don’t overindulge in dessert. Pastries, cakes, cookies, and ice-cream are bursting with cholesterol, sugar, and unhealthy fats.
Keep your heart happy and healthy!
DID YOU KNOW?
Exercising can keep your cholesterol at a healthy range. Get moving!
Only older people have high cholesterol.
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 854)
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