The Truth about High Cholesterol being a Risk Factor of Heart Disease
By John Goh
Over the years, people tend to associate high blood cholesterol to be a cause of heart disease. However, most people do not know the following fact. Total blood cholesterol, which includes both HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol, is a very inaccurate indicator of heart disease risk.
Cholesterol travels through the blood in packages called lipoproteins. Low density lipoprotein (LDL) is called "bad cholesterol" because it is the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries. It has been proven that reducing high levels of LDL does reduce heart disease risk. A LDL level of 160 mg/dL or above is considered high.
High density lipoprotein (HDL) is the good cholesterol that helps protect against heart disease. HDL cholesterol takes the bad cholesterol out of your blood and keeps it from building up in your arteries.
For HDL, higher numbers are better. Low HDL levels (especially under 40) are linked to a higher risk of heart disease, while HDL levels over 60 protect against heart disease. It is important to know your LDL and HDL levels in addition to just knowing your total cholesterol level.
Therefore, a much more accurate way to judge heart disease risk is to separate the two types of cholesterol. The ratio of the bad to good cholesterol (LDL/HDL) is universally recognized as a far more accurate indicator of heart disease risk.
People are advised to avoid saturated fats as they raise your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level. Trans fatty acids (trans fats) are made when vegetable oil is hydrogenated to harden it. Trans fatty acids also raise cholesterol levels.
While trans fat should be avoided at all costs, not all saturated fats are equal. Saturated fats can be classified according to molecular size. The vast majority of fats in our diet are long-chain fatty acids. Only a minority of foods contain medium chain fatty acids which are smaller in size.
The size of the fat molecule is very important because our bodies process and metabolize fats differently depending on their size. Being smaller, medium chain fatty acids are easily digested, absorbed, and put to use. The best sources of medium chain fatty acids are coconut oil and palm kernel oil.
Although coconut oil is predominately a saturated fat, it does not have a negative effect on cholesterol. Natural, non-hydrogenated coconut oil tends to increase HDL cholesterol.
Because of coconut oil's tendency to increase HDL, the cholesterol ratio improves and thus decreases risk of heart disease.
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