Cholesterol is a type of fat in the body, important for the formation of cell membranes, sex hormones, cortisol and bile. Therefore, it is essential for the maintenance of life. What is harmful is its excess, as we shall see. Most of the cholesterol is synthesized by the liver in the body itself (+ - 70%). The rest of the food is purchased, either directly or by transformation of other fats.
Cholesterol actually is one. What characterizes it as good or bad is the type of protein that carries it, because to be transported by the blood fat needs a carrier. In the case of the cholesterol they are differentiated by their density.
The bad cholesterol is called LDL-cholesterol (stands for low density lipoprotein). It is transported from the liver to the general circulation and all body cells. Depending on a number of factors, may be deposited in the vessel wall forming the fatty plaque, blocking its light and lead to myocardial infarction (heart, for example). So the higher the value, the worse. Currently it is known that only the LDL-cholesterol is deposited in the vessel wall itself is oxidized. Smoking, diabetes, physical inactivity and stress greatly favor this oxidation.
The good cholesterol is called HDL cholesterol (high density lipoprotein). It is transported in the reverse direction, that is, which has not been passed by the cells is withdrawn from circulation and brought back to the liver to be reclaimed or eliminated in the feces. This service "cleaning" lessens the chance of deposit of cholesterol in the vessel wall, so the higher the value the better.
So the goal is to lower LDL-c fraction and increase HDL-c levels ideals and to keep them in these levels. We often need the use of specific medications to achieve that goal, but measures related to the change in lifestyle are necessary, essential and accessible, especially with regard to eating habits. Help to reduce levels of LDL-cholesterol restricting foods high in cholesterol and saturated fats (animal foods like seafood, red meat, offal, sausages, animal skin, egg yolk, etc..), The decreased intake of refined carbohydrates (mainly food made from flour and white sugar) and increased fiber intake (mainly fruits and vegetables). Olive oil and soy seem to help improve levels of HDL-cholesterol.
Regular physical activity of moderate intensity (eg, walking 40 minutes 4-5 times / week) is arguably one of the best ways to raise HDL-cholesterol. It is also important to reduce the oxidation of LDL-c fraction. Smoking, obesity and stress, elevated and prolonged worsen the picture, as I talked earlier, mainly because increased levels of oxidative stress. So quitting smoking, keeping weight within the ideal range and learn to cope with the stressors of everyday life is paramount. Additionally we need to enhance our antioxidant system replacement and supplementation of certain nutrients such as vitamins C and E, minerals like selenium and zinc, and amino acids such as cysteine.