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 How Cholesterol Works --A Brief Overview

Most of the cholesterol we need is manufactured in the liver. The rest of it is maintained from our diet. Once manufactured by cells in the liver, cholesterol is ready to move into the bloodstream to various organs and tissues and carry out important functions. These functions include strengthening cell membranes, serving as a precursor to all steroid hormones, and composing bile salts (which help us to digest fat).

How Cholesterol Works

Cholesterol does not enter into the bloodstream on its own---it is too fatty to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Therefore, it must be carried by another protein in order to transport it. This protein is referred to as an apolipoprotein. Apolipoproteins are responsible for transporting cholesterol to its correct destination and mutations in different types of apoproteins are responsible for inherited high cholesterol and other forms of defective metabolism of lipids. When the apolipoprotein and cholesterol molecule are assembled together in the liver, it is now referred to as a lipoprotein.

Lipoproteins occur in different sizes and, depending on their size, perform different functions. One thing to remember is that the more cholesterol and less protein the lipoprotein has, the less stable the molecule will be. More of these lipoprotein types in your blood will place you at a higher risk for heart disease.

High density lipoproteins are the heaviest and are primarily responsible for carrying cholesterol from various organs and tissues to the liver for recycling or degradation. These are also referred to as HDL's or "the good cholesterol" and are associated with a healthy cardiovascular system because they actually clear excess cholesterol from the blood.

Low density lipoproteins (LDL's or the "bad cholesterol") are lighter than HDL and are primarily responsible for carrying cholesterol from the liver to organs and tissues of the body. These lipoproteins are less stable because they contain less protein and more lipid and are therefore more prone to breaking apart. Since they don't bring cholesterol back to the liver, they tend to hang around in the bloodstream, sometimes attaching themselves to vessels. This could eventually cause blockage of a vessel and cause a heart attack.

Very low density lipoproteins are also referred to as the "very bad cholesterol" or VLDL's. They are even lighter in molecular weight and are converted to LDL, but have equally detrimental effects on the circulatory system.

Chylomicrons are made in the small intestine and are responsible for tranporting triglycerides from the small intestine to different tissues in the body. The molecular weight of chylomicrons are even less than VLDL's.

How to Lower Cholesterol Levels Naturally