My mom has started reminding me lately that, as I get older, I should be keeping an eye on my cholesterol—one more to add to the list of things to watch out for, I guess.
Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance in the blood. It aids in the production of hormones, acts as a building block for human tissue, and helps the liver produce bile (which you need to help digest food). You need some cholesterol, but not too much. Too much cholesterol can result in fatty deposits lining your blood vessels; too much and it can cause a blockage in your arteries, or at least severely restrict them.
HOWVER! To make things slightly more complicated, there are two kinds of cholesterol: LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein). LDL is bad and is most likely to stick to the blood vessels. HDL keeps the cardiovascular system running smooth and can even help remove the bad LDL.
LDL is usually put onto labels with the words “saturated fat” and/or trans fat.” Unfortunately, these things are found in a large number of our favorite foods: cheese, sweets, meat pies, baked goods, deep-fried food, popcorn, most takeaway, etc.
Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, can help decrease that bad cholesterol and up the good. On labels, these tend to be “monounsaturated fats” and “polyunsaturated fats.” These are found in foods such as avocados, nuts, oil spreads, fish, seafood, mussels, etc.
Ensuring that you eat a healthy, balanced diet is the best way to control your cholesterol, but as with all health-related things in life, being active can also combat those high-cholesterol levels. 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise is the recommended for most days—so a good power walk/jog or some time on a bike for just half an hour can make a pretty big difference.