High cholesterol? Low cholesterol? Bad? Good? LDL? HDL? There are a lot of facts and numbers thrown around when it comes to the subject of cholesterol, but few people understand what all of that information truly means.
Research shows that Blacks have a 30% greater chance of dying from heart disease than whites – and heart disease is the leading killer of Americans, regardless of race.
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According to the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, African Americans are actually less likely to be diagnosed with heart disease than whites, which may explain one of the reasons behind the disparity.
The lesson learned from this? Deciphering the information and knowing when to talk to your doctor can mean the difference between life and death.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a sticky, waxy, fatty substance found naturally throughout your body. The body manufactures plenty of cholesterol itself, and cholesterol is also found naturally in foods such as eggs and shellfish. Your body needs it to help you digest other foods and to make hormones and vitamin D.
When an overload of cholesterol sticks to artery walls, it’s referred to as plaque and can block and narrow your arteries. Over time, this can lead to atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries.
What Is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is a term used to refer to the diseases of the heart and blood vessel system. A more correct term is “cardiovascular diseases“, and includes such diseases as coronary heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, chest pain (also called “angina“), and rheumatic heart disease.
If you have a high cholesterol level, your risk for heart disease is increased. There are no warning signs that you have high cholesterol, which tends to increase as you age. But there’s a good chance that you have a high cholesterol level if you consume a lot of fatty foods, are overweight, or have a family history of high cholesterol.
What Are The Different Types of Cholesterol?
Cholesterol moves through your bloodstream inside lipoproteins — little fat (lipid) packages on the inside, with proteins on the outside. Two different kinds of lipoproteins carry cholesterol through the blood:
• High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. This is referred to as good cholesterol. It pushes the fatty substance through your body to the liver, which then removes it from your body. If you have a high HDL cholesterol level, your risk of having heart disease is reduced.